Predictors of physician compliance with a published guideline on management of febrile infants

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1999 Mar;18(3):232-8. doi: 10.1097/00006454-199903000-00005.


Background: Previous studies have demonstrated clinicians' poor compliance with published management strategies and protocols, but the reasons why physicians often choose to vary their management of the febrile infant from published guidelines are poorly understood.

Objective: We conducted a study of physicians to learn more about the issues that influence their decisions in the management of febrile infants.

Methods: A survey study of pediatricians, emergency physicians and family physicians randomly selected from a list of licensed physicians in the United States. Chi square and Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to measure differences in responses by specialty. Odds ratios from logistic regression were used to measure differences in compliance with a recently published guideline.

Results: We received 193 completed surveys from pediatricians, 177 from emergency physicians and 104 from family physicians. After controlling for other variables, odds for compliance with a recently published guideline were higher for pediatricians [odds ratio (OR) = 9.13] and emergency physicians (OR = 2.5) than for family physicians (P < 0.001). Factors associated with decreased odds of compliance included more years since graduation from medical school (OR = 0.93), a higher proportion of office visits by children < 1 year of age (OR = 0.97) and increased comfort diagnosing serious bacterial illness (OR = 0.35). Factors associated with increased odds of compliance included a higher perceived likelihood of serious bacterial illness in febrile infants (OR = 1.01) and better reported knowledge of the recently published guideline (OR = 2.01).

Conclusions: We found that specialty as well as other factors were associated with physician compliance with a recently published guideline. This information may facilitate guideline development and implementation by providing a better understanding of what motivates physicians in their clinical decision making.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Fever / therapy*
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Physicians*