Objective: To analyse the variation between primary care centres (PCCs) with regard to prescribing antibiotics and to investigate whether the variation can be explained by factors related to patient satisfaction and to socio-demographic characteristics of the populations in the catchment areas of the PCCs.
Methods: The frequency of prescription of antibiotics by GPs at the PCCs was used as the dependent variable in a multivariate regression analysis. Questionnaire data for patient satisfaction and register data for socio-demographic characteristics were used as explanatory variables. The study was set in a county in south-east Sweden, and 6734 patients consulting GPs at 39 out of the 41 PCCs in the county participated. Variables correlating with the frequency of antibiotics prescription at PCC level and with patient satisfaction were the main outcome measures.
Results: A seven-fold variation in the extent of the prescription of antibiotics between the PCCs was observed. In the multivariate analysis, a high antibiotic prescription rate relates to high overall patient satisfaction with GP consultation as well as to the share of males in the listed population but to low satisfaction with the time spent by the GP on listening to the patient.
Conclusion: A high frequency of prescription of antibiotics at a PCC may reflect a general disposition among GPs to give priority to maintaining good relations with the patients. However, a low level of prescription may be consistent with patient satisfaction if more time is spent on listening to and informing the patients. Thus more time spent on listening to the patients may reduce the prescription of antibiotics without reducing patient satisfaction.