Overdiagnosis of urinary tract infections by nursing home clinicians versus a clinical guideline

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2022 Apr;70(4):1070-1081. doi: 10.1111/jgs.17638. Epub 2022 Jan 11.


Purpose: To inform overprescribing and antibiotic stewardship in nursing homes (NHs), we examined the concordance between clinicians' (NH primary care providers and registered nurses) diagnosis of suspected UTI with a clinical guideline treated as the gold standard, and whether clinician characteristics were associated with diagnostic classification.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional web-based survey of a U.S. national convenience sample of NH clinicians. The survey included a discrete choice experiment with 19 randomly selected clinical scenarios of NH residents with possible UTIs. For each scenario, participants were asked if they thought a UTI was likely. Responses were compared to the guideline to determine the sensitivity and specificity of clinician judgment and performance indicators. Multivariable logistic mixed effects regression analysis of demographic, work, personality, and UTI knowledge/attitudes characteristics was conducted.

Results: One thousand seven hundred forty-eight NH clinicians responded to 33,212 discrete choice scenarios; 867 (50%) were NH primary care providers and 881 (50%) were NH registered nurses, 39% were male, and the mean age was 45 years. Participants were uncertain about diagnosis in 30% of scenarios. Correct classification occurred for 66% of all scenarios (providers: 70%; nurses: 62%). Respondent judgment had a sensitivity of 78% (providers: 81%; nurses: 74%) and specificity of 54% (providers: 59%; nurses: 49%) compared to the clinical guideline. Adjusting for covariates in multivariable models, being a nurse and having higher closemindedness were associated higher odds of false positive UTI (odds ratio [OR] 1.61, p < 0.001; and OR 1.09, p = 0.039, respectively), although higher UTI knowledge and conscientiousness were associated with lower odds of false positive UTI ratings (OR 0.80, p < 0.001; OR 0.90, p = 0.005, respectively).

Conclusions: Clinicians tend to over-diagnose urinary tract infections, necessitating systems-based interventions to augment clinical decision-making. Clinician type, UTI knowledge, and personality traits may also influence behavior and deserve further study.

Keywords: clinical decision-making; confusion matrix; diagnostic accuracy; nursing home; urinary tract infection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes
  • Overdiagnosis*
  • Urinary Tract Infections* / diagnosis
  • Urinary Tract Infections* / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents