PURPOSE: Fever is the most common reason for a child to be taken to a physician, yet the level of unwarranted antibiotic prescribing remains high. We aimed to determine the effect on antibiotic prescribing of providing an illness-focused interactive booklet on fever in children to out-of-hours primary care clinicians.
METHODS: We conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial in 20 out-of-hours general practice centers in the Netherlands. Children aged younger than 12 years with fever were included. Family physicians at the 10 intervention sites had access to an illness-focused interactive booklet between November 2015 and June 2016. The primary outcome was antibiotic prescribing during the index consultation. Analysis was performed by fitting 2-level random intercept logistic regression models.
RESULTS: The trial took place among 3,518 family physicians and 25,355 children. The booklet was used in 28.5% of 11,945 consultations in the intervention group. Compared with usual care, access to the booklet did not significantly alter antibiotic prescribing during the index consultation (odds ratio = 0.90; 95% CI, 0.79-1.02; prescription rate, 23.5% vs 25.2%; intracluster correlation coefficient = 0.005). In contrast, use of the booklet significantly reduced antibiotic prescribing (odds ratio = 0.83; 95% CI, 0.74-0.94; prescription rate, 21.9% vs 25.2%; intracluster correlation coefficient = 0.002). Children managed by family physicians with access to the booklet were less likely to receive any drug prescription, and parents in the booklet group showed a reduced intention to consult again for similar illnesses.
CONCLUSIONS: Benefit of an illness-focused interactive booklet in improving outcomes of childhood fever in out-of-hours primary care was largely restricted to the cases in which family physicians actually used the booklet. Insight into reasons for use and nonuse may inform future interventions of this type.
This is another noble attempt to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing. I wonder if we have reached a point of diminishing returns with such efforts. Either providers get it (indiscriminate antibiotic use is bad) or they don't.
Having an interactive, educational booklet on childhood fever available in general practice did not reduce antibiotic prescriptions in after-hours care of febrile children. However, the actual use of said booklet did result in modest decreases in antibiotic prescribing.