Antibiotics for acute respiratory tract symptoms: patients' expectations, GPs' management and patient satisfaction

Fam Pract. 2004 Jun;21(3):234-7. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmh303.


Background: GPs often assume that prescribing antibiotics increases patient satisfaction.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the associations between receiving antibiotics and information/reassurance on the one hand and patients' satisfaction on the other in patients with acute respiratory tract symptoms, and to assess whether this relationship is influenced by patients' expectations.

Methods: Questionnaires were distributed among patients presenting with acute respiratory tract symptoms in 51 general practices (122 GPs) in the region of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Outcome measures were patients' expectations, GPs' management regarding antibiotic prescribing and information/reassurance, and patient satisfaction.

Results: Information/reassurance was expected by 90% of the respondents (916/1014); 97% of those actually received it (888/916). Fifty percent expected antibiotics (467/926), while 73% of them received antibiotics (343/467). Receiving information/reassurance was more strongly associated with satisfaction than an antibiotic prescription [adjusted odds ratio (OR) 10.6; 95% confidence interval (CI) 5.6-20.1, and adjusted OR 2.2; 95% CI 1.3-3.8, respectively]. Patients' expectations towards antibiotics modified these associations; in patients not expecting antibiotics, receiving information/reassurance was the only independent determinant of satisfaction (adjusted OR 21.6; 95% CI 7.4-62.7) and in patients who expected antibiotics, actually receiving antibiotics and receiving information/reassurance were equally important determinants of satisfaction (adjusted OR 3.8; 95% CI 1.9-7.5, and adjusted OR 4.7; 95% CI 1.9-11.9, respectively).

Conclusion: GPs should first explore patients' expectations about antibiotic treatment before giving information about the self-limitedness of respiratory tract symptoms and (in)effectiveness of antibiotics in order to enhance shared decision making and rationalize antibiotic prescribing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents