To examine the relationships among physician-parent communication practices, physicians' perceptions of parental expectations for antibiotic treatment, and inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for viral upper respiratory tract infections.
Cross-sectional study of pediatric encounters motivated by cold symptoms between October 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001. Each encounter was videotaped. Physicians completed a postvisit survey that measured whether they perceived the parent as expecting antibiotics. Coded communication variables were merged with survey variables. Multivariate analyses identified key predictors of parent-physician communication practices, physician perceptions of parents' expectations for antibiotics, and inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for viral conditions.
Twenty-seven pediatric practices in Los Angeles, Calif.
Thirty-eight pediatricians and 522 consecutively approached parents of children with cold symptoms.
Main Outcome Measures
Physicians' perceptions of parental expectations for antibiotics, inappropriate antibiotic prescribing, and parental questioning of nonantibiotic treatments.
Physicians were 20.2% more likely to perceive parents as expecting antibiotics when they questioned the physician's treatment plan (P = .004; 95% confidence interval, 6.3%-34.0%). When physicians perceived parents as expecting antibiotics, they were 31.7% more likely to inappropriately prescribe them (P<.001; 95% confidence interval, 16.0%-47.3%). Parents were 24.0% more likely to question the treatment plan when the physician ruled out the need for antibiotics (P = .004; 95% confidence interval, 7.7%-40.3%).
Parental questioning of the treatment plan increases physicians' perceptions that antibiotics are expected and thus increases inappropriate antibiotic prescribing. Treatment plans that focus on what can be done to make a child feel better, rather than on what is not needed, ie, antibiotics, may decrease inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.