Adherence to guidelines on antibiotic treatment for respiratory tract infections in various categories of physicians: a retrospective cross-sectional study of data from electronic patient records

BMJ Open. 2015 Jul 15;5(7):e008096. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008096.


Objective: To study how prescription patterns concerning respiratory tract infections differ between interns, residents, younger general practitioners (GPs), older GPs and locums.

Design: Retrospective study of structured data from electronic patient records.

Setting: Data were obtained from 53 health centres and 3 out-of-hours units in Jönköping County, Sweden, through their common electronic medical record database.

Participants: All physicians working in primary care during the 2-year study period (1 November 2010 to 31 October 2012).

Outcome measures: Physicians' adherence to current guidelines for respiratory tract infections regarding the use of antibiotics.

Results: We found considerable differences in prescribing patterns between physician categories. The recommended antibiotic, phenoxymethylpenicillin, was more often prescribed by interns, residents and younger GPs, while older GPs and locums to a higher degree prescribed broad-spectrum antibiotics. The greatest differences were seen when the recommendation in guidelines was to refrain from antibiotics, as for acute bronchitis. Interns and residents most often followed guidelines, while compliance in descending order was: young GPs, older GPs and locums. We also noticed that male doctors were somewhat overall more restrictive with antibiotics than female doctors.

Conclusions: In general, primary care doctors followed national guidelines on choice of antibiotics when treating respiratory tract infections in children but to a lesser degree when treating adults. Refraining from antibiotics seems harder. Adherence to national guidelines could be improved, especially for acute bronchitis and pneumonia. This was especially true for older GPs and locums whose prescription patterns were distant from the prevailing guidelines.


Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • General Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Professional Practice Location
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Sweden
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents