Effects of viral respiratory disease education and surveillance on antibiotic prescribing

Fam Med. 1999 Feb;31(2):101-6.


Background and objectives: We describe a partnership between family practice residency clinics and a state public health virology laboratory that has produced comprehensive viral respiratory disease education and surveillance. Family practice residents have been provided with education on respiratory viruses and the results of ongoing viral surveillance. The preliminary effects of this program on antibiotic prescribing by senior residents are evaluated in this paper.

Methods: We used a questionnaire to assess the acceptance by family practice residents of the educational component and the utility of ongoing viral surveillance. We used chart review to evaluate rates of antibiotic prescribing and the number of patients diagnosed per year with acute upper respiratory infection and acute bronchitis by senior residents in 1992 (preexposure) and 1996 (postexposure).

Results: By the third year of training, most residents (79%) reported receiving adequate training regarding common viral respiratory diseases. Moreover, residents reported that they were less likely to prescribe antibiotics to patients presenting with respiratory infections when provided with specific information on circulating viral pathogens. Antibiotic prescribing in the postexposure group was 68% lower for upper respiratory infection (URI) and 45% lower for a composite of URI and bronchitis.

Conclusions: Education and monitoring of circulating respiratory viruses can result in familiarity with common disorders in primary care and reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Curriculum
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Family Practice / standards
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / methods*
  • Internship and Residency / standards
  • Male
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / virology
  • Wisconsin


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents