Assessment of appropriate antimicrobial prescribing: do experts agree?

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2016 Oct;71(10):2980-7. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkw207. Epub 2016 Jun 10.


Objectives: Little is known about the validity and reliability of expert assessments of the quality of antimicrobial prescribing, despite their importance in antimicrobial stewardship. We investigated how infectious disease doctors' assessments compared with a reference standard (modal expert opinion) and with the assessments of their colleagues.

Methods: Twenty-four doctors specialized in infectious diseases or clinical microbiology (16 specialists and 8 residents) from five hospitals were asked to assess the appropriateness of antimicrobial agents prescribed for a broad spectrum of indications in 56 paper cases. They were instructed how to handle guideline applicability and deviations. We created a reference standard of antimicrobial appropriateness using the modal assessment of 16 specialists. We calculated criterion validity and interrater and intrarater overall and specific agreement with an index expert (senior infectious disease physician) and analysed the influence of doctor characteristics on validity.

Results: Specialists agreed with the reference standard in 80% of cases (range 75%-86%), with a sensitivity and specificity of 75% and 84%, respectively. This did not differ by clinical specialty, hospital or years of experience, and residents had similar results. Specialists agreed with the index expert in 76% of cases and the index expert agreed with his previous assessments in 71% of cases.

Conclusions: Doctors specialized in infectious diseases and clinical microbiology assess the appropriateness of antimicrobials prescribed for a broad spectrum of indications with acceptable agreement and validity, regardless of their experience or hospital of employment. However, there is room for improvement, which merits attention in multidisciplinary discussions and education.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Communicable Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Drug Prescriptions* / standards
  • Drug Prescriptions* / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Physicians
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents