The inconvincible patient: how clinicians perceive demand for antibiotics in the outpatient setting

Mike R. Kohut, Sara C. Keller, Jeffrey A. Linder, Pranita D. Tamma, Sara E. Cosgrove, Kathleen Speck, Roy Ahn, Prashila Dullabh, Melissa A. Miller, Julia E. Szymczak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Perceived patient demand for antibiotics drives unnecessary antibiotic prescribing in outpatient settings, but little is known about how clinicians experience this demand or how this perceived demand shapes their decision-making. OBJECTIVE: To identify how clinicians perceive patient demand for antibiotics and the way these perceptions stimulate unnecessary prescribing. METHODS: Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with clinicians in outpatient settings who prescribe antibiotics. Interviews were analyzed using conventional and directed content analysis. RESULTS: Interviews were conducted with 25 clinicians from nine practices across three states. Patient demand was the most common reason respondents provided for why they prescribed non-indicated antibiotics. Three related factors motivated clinically unnecessary antibiotic use in the face of perceived patient demand: (i) clinicians want their patients to regard clinical visits as valuable and believe that an antibiotic prescription demonstrates value; (ii) clinicians want to avoid negative repercussions of denying antibiotics, including reduced income, damage to their reputation, emotional exhaustion, and degraded relationships with patients; (iii) clinicians believed that certain patients are impossible to satisfy without an antibiotic prescription and felt that efforts to refuse antibiotics to such patients wastes time and invites the aforementioned negative repercussions. Clinicians in urgent care settings were especially likely to describe being motivated by these factors. CONCLUSION: Interventions to improve antibiotic use in the outpatient setting must address clinicians' concerns about providing value for their patients, fear of negative repercussions from denying antibiotics, and the approach to inconvincible patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-282
Number of pages7
JournalFamily practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 25 2020


  • antibiotics
  • antimicrobial stewardship
  • doctor-patient relationship
  • qualitative research
  • quality of care
  • upper respiratory infections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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