Digital support helps UK GPs reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing, study shows

The year-long study used EHRs from 79 GP surgeries in the UK contributing to the Clinical Practice Research Datalink.
By Leontina Postelnicu
02:01 am
Doctor using technology

New research published in the BMJ this week has shown that access to online decision support and feedback for UK GPs led to a decrease in the number of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions for respiratory illness by 12 percent.

A team from the School of Population Health and Environmental Sciences at King’s College London carried out the year-long trial, funded by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Programme, using EHRs from 79 GP practices contributing to the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) research service - one of the largest primary care databases of EHRs in the world.

In the interventional arm of the trial, GPs received a training webinar and monthly feedback reports on their antibiotic prescribing for respiratory illness and had access to decision support material such as information leaflets.

Using these, results showed that the amount of antibiotic prescribing was cut down by 12 percent overall, with one prescription avoided for every 62 patients between 15 to 85 years old.

Evidence indicated that there was no increase in serious bacterial complications.

“Misuse of antibiotics is putting us all at risk. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed is leading to the emergence of resistant infections that can be very difficult to treat,” said King’s College London Professor of Public Health and lead author of the study Martin Gulliford.

“This trial showed that providing GPs with information about their use of antibiotics for respiratory illnesses led to a reduction in antibiotic use. If this approach is scaled up nationally, it could contribute to reducing the emergence of antibiotic resistance,” Gulliford concluded.

Without effective antibiotics, operations such as hip replacements could become too risky to perform, and the UK has cut the amount used by over seven percent since 2014.

Towards the end of January, the government released a 20-year vision and a five-year action plan setting out how the UK will contribute to containing and controlling antimicrobial resistance by 2040.