One of the fears about use of telemedicine in urgent care is that providers might be inclined to overprescribe antibiotics, thereby stoking the already-dangerous trend of antimicrobial resistance. However, a new study conducted at Children’s National Hospital and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine suggests that telehealth could actually help improve antibiotic stewardship. The study reflected 55,000 visits to a single hospital in 2018. Researchers tracked prescribing for bronchitis, sinusitis, pharyngitis, and upper respiratory tract infections then divided the participating physicians into two groups; both groups received education on appropriate antibiotic prescribing, but one also received historical data on their own prescribing. Both groups showed a decrease in antibiotic prescriptions after the interventions, but the clinicians who received both education and information on their prescribing habits showed a greater decrease. The lesson is that it’s not necessarily the medium that encourages overprescribing, but the provider turning a blind eye to their own habits.
A Surprise Finding in a Study of Telemedicine and Children