Background: The Prescription Peer Academic Detailing (Rx-PAD) project is an educational intervention study aiming at improving GPs' competence in pharmacotherapy. GPs in CME peer groups were randomised to receive a tailored intervention, either to support a safer prescription practice for elderly patients or to improve prescribing of antibiotics to patients with respiratory tract infections. The project was based on the principles of peer group academic detailing, incorporating individual feedback on GPs' prescription patterns. We did a study to explore GPs and tutors' experiences with peer group academic detailing, and to explore GPs' reasons for deviating from recommended prescribing practice.
Methods: Data was collected through nine focus group interviews with a total of 39 GPs and 20 tutors. Transcripts from the interviews were analyzed by two researchers according to a procedure for thematic content analysis.
Results: A shared understanding of the complex decision-making involved in prescribing in general practice was reported by both GPs and tutors as essential for an open discussion in the CME groups. Tutors experienced that CME groups differed regarding structure and atmosphere, and in some groups it was a challenge to run the scheme as planned. Individual feedback motivated GPs to reflect on and to improve their prescribing practice, though feedback reports could cause distress if the prescribing practice was unfavourable. Explanations for inappropriate prescriptions were lack of knowledge, factors associated with patients, the GP's background, the practice, and other health professionals or health care facilities.
Conclusions: GPs and tutors experienced peer group academic detailing as a suitable method to discuss and learn more about pharmacotherapy. An important outcome for GPs was being more reflective about their prescriptions. Disclosure of inappropriate prescribing can cause distress in some doctors, and tutors must be prepared to recognise and manage such reactions.