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Doctor/Patient Communication Key in Fight Against Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescription

Patient satisfaction is essential to doctors in all settings and nowhere is this more important than in the general practitioner’s office.  Satisfied patients typically have more trust for their doctors, follow medical instructions more readily, and return consistently for followups and other types of appointments.  Dissatisfied patients can be difficult to manage at best and in many cases simply switch providers or delay seeking care.

One area that challenges medical professionals today is the expectation from the patient that Antibiotics can and will help most any illness.  Always under pressure to keep appointment durations tightly controlled leads some doctors to choose between taking the time to explain why antibiotics won’t help with certain illnesses and simply prescribing an antibiotic for the patient’s comfort.

Recommendations for Doctor/Patient communication include telling parents of young children that unnecessary antibiotics can be harmful by creating conditions where resistance is more likely to develop.  Also, by speaking with patients in a consultative manner as opposed to a mere dispensation of information will encourage patients to think more critically about their condition and any potential unintended effects.  There should be no underestimation of the power of taking one’s patient seriously.

For adults cases of pharyngitis, most instances are self-limiting and are best helped by traditional care methodologies.  Ensuring that the patient is aware of the power of supportive care during illnesses is imperative in defeating the obligatory expectation of antibiotic treatment.  In the case of rhinosinusitis many cases are viral, upper respiratory tract infections although differentiation between viral and bacterial is challenging.  Symptoms lasting for less than 7 days are less likely to have a bacterial infection.  Guidelines for practitioners for adults and children are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Patients themselves are also a necessary part of the equation in preventing the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Knowing that there is a difference between a viral and bacterial infection can only help today’s doctors communicate more effectively with patients.  Truly, the Doctor/Patient nexus is the one of the most effective and accessible methods for turning the tide against the potential for antibiotic resistance in ourselves and our communities.

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One Response to Doctor/Patient Communication Key in Fight Against Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescription

  1. Artson October 30, 2011 at 11:53 AM #

    Patient satisfaction (should be) is essential to doctors.

    This isn’t necessarily so and simply stating it as an opening fact doesn’t make it so. It’s called ‘begging the question’. Otherwise, nice article.

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