Exploring Patient Awareness and Perceptions of the Appropriate Use of Antibiotics: A Mixed-Methods Study

Antibiotics (Basel). 2017 Oct 31;6(4):23. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics6040023.


In the outpatient setting, estimates suggest that 30% of the antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary. This study explores patient knowledge and awareness of appropriate use of antibiotics and expectations regarding how antibiotics are used for their treatment in outpatient settings. A survey was administered to a convenience sample of patients, parents, and caregivers (n = 190) at seven primary care clinics and two urgent care locations. Fisher's exact tests compared results by patient characteristics. Although 89% of patients correctly believed that antibiotics work well for treating infections from bacteria, 53% incorrectly believed that antibiotics work well for treating viral infections. Patients who incorrectly believed that antibiotics work well for treating viral infections were more than twice as likely to expect a provider to give them an antibiotic when they have a cough or common cold. Patients who completed the survey also participated in semi-structured interviews (n = 4), which were analyzed using thematic analysis. Patients reported experiencing confusion about which illnesses may be treated by antibiotics and unclear communication from clinicians about the appropriate use of antibiotics. Development of easy to understand patient educational materials can help address patients' incorrect perceptions of appropriate antibiotic use and facilitate patient-provider communication.

Keywords: antibiotic resistance; antibiotics; beliefs about antibiotics; expectations about antibiotics; mixed-methods research; patient and provider communication.