Background: Delayed prescribing of antibiotics for respiratory tract infections (RTIs) lowers the amount of antibiotics consumed. Several national treatment guidelines on RTIs recommend the strategy. When advocating treatment innovations, the feasibility and credibility of the innovation must be taken into account. The objective of this study was to explore GPs use and patients uptake of wait-and-see prescriptions for RTIs, and to investigate the feasibility of the strategy from GPs' and patients' perspectives.
Methods: Questionnaire survey among Norwegian GPs issuing and patients receiving a wait-and-see-prescription for RTIs. Patients reported symptoms, confidence and antibiotics consumption, GPs reported diagnoses, reason for issuing a wait-and-see-prescription and their opinion about the method.
Results: 304 response pairs from consultations with 49 GPs were received. The patient response rate was 80%. The most common diagnosis for the GPs to issue a wait-and-see prescription was sinusitis (33%) and otitis (21%). 46% of the patients reported to consume the antibiotics. When adjusted for other factors, the diagnosis did not predict antibiotic consumption, but both being 16 years or more (p = 0,006) and reporting to have a fever (p = 0,012) doubled the odds of antibiotic consumption, while feeling very ill more than quadrupled the odds (p = 0,002). In 210 cases (69%), the GP found delayed prescribing a very reasonable strategy, and 270 patients (89%) would prefer to receive a wait-and-see prescription in a similar situation in the future. The GPs found delayed prescribing very reasonable most frequently in cases of sinusitis (79%, p = 0,007) and least frequently in cases of lower RTIs (49%, p = 0,002).
Conclusion: Most patients and GPs are satisfied with the delayed prescribing strategy. The patients' age, symptoms and malaise are more important than the diagnosis in predicting antibiotic consumption. The GP's view of the method as a reasonable approach depends on the patient's diagnosis. In our setting, delayed prescribing seems to be a feasible strategy, especially in cases of sinusitis and otitis. Educational efforts to promote delayed prescribing in similar settings should focus on these diagnoses.