Primary care clinicians’ views of paediatric respiratory infection surveillance information to inform clinical decision-making: a qualitative study

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Aim: To investigate primary care clinicians’ views of a prototype locally relevant, real-time viral surveillance system to assist diagnostic decision-making and antibiotic prescribing for paediatric respiratory tract infections (RTI). Clinicians’ perspectives on the content, anticipated use and impact were explored to inform intervention development.

Background: Children with RTIs are overprescribed antibiotics. Pressures on primary care and diagnostic uncertainty can lead to decisional biases towards prescribing. We hypothesise that real-time paediatric RTI surveillance data could reduce diagnostic uncertainty and help reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing.

Methodology: Semistructured one-to-one interviews with 21 clinicians from a range of urban general practitioner surgeries explored the clinical context and views of the prototype system. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Though clinicians self-identified as rational (not over)prescribers, cognitive biases influenced antibiotic prescribing decisions. Clinicians sought to avoid ‘anticipated regret’ around not prescribing for a child who then deteriorated. Clinicians were not aware of formal infection surveillance information sources (tending to assume many viruses are around), perceiving the information as novel and potentially useful. Perceptions of surveillance information as presented included: not relevant to decision-making/management; useful to confirm decisions post hoc; and increasing risks of missing sick children. Clinicians expressed wariness of using population-level data to influence individual patient decision-making and expressed preference for threat (high-risk) information identified by surveillance, rather than reassuring information about viral RTIs.

Conclusions: More work is needed to develop a surveillance intervention if it is to beneficially influence decision-making and antibiotic prescribing in primary care. Key challenges for developing interventions are how to address cognitive biases and how to communicate reassuring information to risk-oriented clinicians.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Paediatrics Open
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2019

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Tobacco and Alcohol


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