Supporting better decision making for acute infection management in secondary care

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Background

The inappropriate use of antimicrobials drives antimicrobial resistance. We conducted a study to map physician decision-making processes for acute infection management in secondary care to identify potential targets for quality improvement interventions.

Methods

Physicians newly qualified to consultant level participated in semi-structured interviews. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim for analysis using NVIVO11.0 software. Grounded theory methodology was applied. Analytical categories were created using constant comparison approach to the data and participants were recruited to the study until thematic saturation was reached.

Results

Twenty physicians were interviewed. The decision pathway for the management of acute infections follows a Bayesian-like step-wise approach, with information processed and systematically added to prior assumptions to guide management. The main emerging themes identified as determinants of the decision-making of individual physicians were (1) perceptions of providing ‘optimal’ care for the patient with infection by providing rapid and often intravenous therapy; (2) perceptions that stopping/de-escalating therapy was a senior doctor decision with junior trainees not expected to contribute; and (3) expectation of interactions with local guidelines and microbiology service advice. Feedback on review of junior doctor prescribing decisions was often lacking, causing frustration and confusion on appropriate practice within this cohort.

Conclusion

Interventions to improve infection management must incorporate mechanisms to promote distribution of responsibility for decisions made. The disparity between expectations of prescribers to start but not review/stop therapy must be urgently addressed with mechanisms to improve communication and feedback to junior prescribers to facilitate their continued development as prudent antimicrobial prescribers.

Full reference: Timothy Miles Rawson, T. M. et al: Mapping the decision pathways of acute infection management in secondary care among UK medical physicians: a qualitative study BMC Medicine 2016 14:208

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