Using qualitative insights to change practice: exploring the culture of antibiotic prescribing and consumption for urinary tract infections

BMJ Open. 2016 Jan 11;6(1):e008894. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008894.


Objectives: The aim of this paper is to explore the culture of antibiotic prescribing and consumption in the community for urinary tract infections (UTI) from the perspective of the general practitioners (GPs) and community member.

Design: Indepth interviews were conducted with GPs, and focus groups were held with community members.

Setting: General practice and community setting.

Participants: 15 GPs practising in rural and urban locations in Ireland participated in the indepth interviews. 6 focus groups (n=42) with participants who had direct or indirect experiences with UTI were also undertaken.

Results: The decision to prescribe or consume an antibiotic for a UTI is a set of complex processes including need recognition, information search and evaluation processes governed by the relationship and interactions between the GP and the patient. Different GP and patient decision-making profiles emerged emphasising the diversity and variety of general practice in real-life settings. The GP findings showed a requirement for more microbiological information on antibiotic resistance patterns to inform prescribing decisions. Focus group participants wanted a conversation with the GP about their illness and the treatment options available.

Conclusions: Collectively, this research identified the consultation as a priority intervention environment for stimulating change in relation to antibiotics. This paper demonstrates how qualitative research can identify the interacting processes which are instrumental to the decision to prescribe or consume an antibiotic for a suspected UTI. Qualitative research empowers researchers to investigate the what, how and why of interventions in real-life setting. Qualitative research can play a critical and instrumental role in designing behavioural change strategies with high impact on practice. The results of this research were used to design a complex intervention informed by social marketing.

Trial registration number: NCT01913860; Pre-results.


Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • General Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • General Practitioners / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / drug therapy*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents

Associated data