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DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-049258; PMCID: PMC9680140


BACKGROUND: Children with acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs) receive ≈11.4 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions annually. A noted contributor is inadequate parent-clinician communication, however, efforts to reduce overprescribing have only indirectly targeted communication or been impractical.

OBJECTIVES: Compare two feasible (higher vs lower intensity) interventions for enhancing parent-clinician communication on the rate of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.

DESIGN: Multisite, parallel group, cluster randomised comparative effectiveness trial. Data collected between March 2017 and March 2019.

SETTING: Academic and private practice outpatient clinics.

PARTICIPANTS: Clinicians (n=41, 85% of eligible approached) and 1599 parent-child dyads (ages 1-5 years with ARTI symptoms, 71% of eligible approached).

INTERVENTIONS: All clinicians received 20 min ARTI diagnosis and treatment education. Higher intensity clinicians received an additional 50 min communication skills training. All parents viewed a 90 second antibiotic education video.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Inappropriate antibiotic treatment was assessed via blinded medical record review by study clinicians and a priori defined as prescriptions for the wrong diagnosis or use of the wrong agent. Secondary outcomes were revisits, adverse drug reactions (both assessed 2 weeks after the visit) and parent ratings of provider communication, shared decision-making and visit satisfaction (assessed at end of the visit on Likert-type scales).

RESULTS: Most clinicians completed the study (n=38, 93%), were doctors (n=25, 66%), female (n=30, 78%) and averaged 8 years in practice. All parent-child dyad provided data for the main outcome (n=855 (54%) male, n=1043 (53%)

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Rate of inappropriate prescribing was low in both arms. Clinician education coupled with parent education may be sufficient to yield low inappropriate antibiotic prescribing rates. The absence of a significant difference between groups indicates that communication principles previously thought to drive inappropriate prescribing may need to be re-examined or may not have as much of an impact in practices where prescribing has improved in recent years.


Journal Title

BMJ Open





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MeSH Keywords

Humans; Female; Male; Infant; Child, Preschool; Anti-Bacterial Agents; Inappropriate Prescribing; Prescriptions; Respiratory Tract Infections; Communication


Community child health; Infection control; PAEDIATRICS; PREVENTIVE MEDICINE; PUBLIC HEALTH; Paediatric A&E and ambulatory care


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