Background: Knowledge, perceptions and prescribing behaviour are key to antibiotic prescribing. The aim of this paper is to systematically review this.
Method: An extensive literature search from 1990 to 2014.
Results: Nineteen articles were included; eight in ambulatory care, seven in hospital settings and four in both, across all countries. Physicians still have inadequate knowledge and misconceptions about antibiotic prescribing. Moreover, some physicians, although aware that antibiotics are of limited benefit in some conditions, still prescribed them. Several factors influenced prescribing, including patients' expectations, severity and duration of infections, uncertainty over diagnosis, potentially losing patients and influence of pharmaceutical companies. Pocket-sized guidelines seen as an important source of information for physicians.
Conclusion: Inadequate knowledge of prescribing is prevalent among physicians. However, many physicians were interested in improving their antibiotic prescribing. Multifaceted interventions targeting all key stakeholders, including patients, are needed to improve future antibiotic prescribing.
Keywords: antibiotics; irrational use of medicines; patients; physicians; prescribing behaviour; resistance; systematic reviews.