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Children with acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs) receive ≈11.4 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions annually. A noted contributor is inadequate parent-clinician communication, however, efforts to reduce overprescribing have only indirectly targeted communication or been impractical. Compare two feasible (higher vs lower intensity) interventions for enhancing parent-clinician communication on the rate of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing. Multisite, parallel group, cluster randomised comparative effectiveness trial. Data collected between March 2017 and March 2019. Academic and private practice outpatient clinics. Clinicians (n=41, 85% of eligible approached) and 1599 parent-child dyads (ages 1-5 years with ARTI symptoms, 71% of eligible approached). All clinicians received 20 min ARTI diagnosis and treatment education. Higher intensity clinicians received an additional 50 min communication skills training. All parents viewed a 90 second antibiotic education video. Inappropriate antibiotic treatment was assessed via blinded medical record review by study clinicians and a priori defined as prescriptions for the wrong diagnosis or use of the wrong agent. Secondary outcomes were revisits, adverse drug reactions (both assessed 2 weeks after the visit) and parent ratings of provider communication, shared decision-making and visit satisfaction (assessed at end of the visit on Likert-type scales). Most clinicians completed the study (n=38, 93%), were doctors (n=25, 66%), female (n=30, 78%) and averaged 8 years in practice. All parent-child dyad provided data for the main outcome (n=855 (54%) male, n=1043 (53%) <2 years). Inappropriate antibiotic prescribing was similar among patients who consulted with a higher intensity (54/696, 7.8%) versus a lower intensity (85/904, 9.4%) clinician. A generalised linear mixed effect regression model (adjusted for the two-stage nested design, clinician type, clinic setting and clinician experience) revealed that the odds of receiving inappropriate antibiotic treatment did not significantly vary by group (AOR 0.99, 95% CI: 0.52 to 1.89, p=0.98). Secondary outcomes of revisits and adverse reactions did not vary between arms, and parent ratings of satisfaction with quality of parent-provider communication (5/5), shared decision making (9/10) and visit satisfaction (5/5) were similarly high in both arms. Rate of inappropriate prescribing was low in both arms. Clinician education coupled with parent education may be sufficient to yield low inappropriate antibiotic prescribing rates. The absence of a significant difference between groups indicates that communication principles previously thought to drive inappropriate prescribing may need to be re-examined or may not have as much of an impact in practices where prescribing has improved in recent years. NCT03037112.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ open

Publication Date





Health Services and Outcomes Research, Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, Kansas City, Missouri, USA