Barriers to effective prescribing in older adults: applying the theoretical domains framework in the ambulatory setting - a scoping review

BMC Geriatr. 2020 Nov 9;20(1):459. doi: 10.1186/s12877-020-01766-7.


Background: As the population ages, potentially inappropriate prescribing (PIP) in the older adults may become increasingly prevalent. This undermines patient safety and creates a potential source of major morbidity and mortality. Understanding the factors that influence prescribing behaviour may allow development of interventions to reduce PIP. The aim of this study is to apply the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) to explore barriers to effective prescribing for older adults in the ambulatory setting.

Methods: A scoping review was performed based on the five-stage methodological framework developed by Arksey and O'Malley. From 30 Aug 2018 to 5 Sep 2018, we conducted our search on PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and Web of Science. We also searched five electronic journals, Google and Google Scholar to identify additional sources and grey literature. Two reviewers applied eligibility criteria to the title and abstract screening, followed by full text screening, before systematically charting the data.

Results: A total of 5731 articles were screened. Twenty-nine studies met the selection criteria for qualitative analysis. We mapped our results using the 14-domain TDF, eventually identifying 10 domains of interest for barriers to effective prescribing. Of these, significant domains include physician-related factors such as "Knowledge", "Skills", and "Social/Professional Role and Identity"; issues with "Environmental Context and Resources"; and the impact of "Social Influences" and "Emotion" on prescribing behaviour.

Conclusion: The TDF elicited multiple domains which both independently and collectively lead to barriers to effective prescribing for older adults in the ambulatory setting. Changing the prescribing climate will thus require interventions targeting multiple stakeholders, including physicians, patients and hospital/clinic systems. Further work is needed to explore individual domains and guide development of frameworks to aid guide prescribing for older adults in the ambulatory setting.

Keywords: Ambulatory; Barriers to effective prescribing in older adults; Multimorbidity; Outpatient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing*
  • Patient Safety
  • Professional Role*