Physicians' knowledge, perceptions and behaviour towards antibiotic prescribing: a systematic review of the literature

Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2015 May;13(5):665-80. doi: 10.1586/14787210.2015.1025057. Epub 2015 Mar 26.


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.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Drug Prescriptions / standards*
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents