GW Researchers Find Geographic Location of Physicians Affects Antibiotic Prescribing Practices

The study provides insights into the substantial geographic variability in antibiotic prescribing cultures throughout the United States

May 18, 2022

New research from the George Washington University found that physicians in the Northeast and South are significantly more likely than physicians in the West to prescribe antibiotics for upper respiratory infection and bronchitis, two conditions for which antibiotics are not needed. 

Previous research has found that geographic location does influence antibiotic prescribing, but it was not known if this prescribing culture was physician or patient driven. This study leverages the rise in direct-to-consumer telemedicine, where patients and providers are not necessarily in the same geographic location to answer this question. The study found that a patient calling in to the practice with a URI or bronchitis was 2.5 times more likely to receive an unnecessary antibiotic if their physician resided in the Northeast than if their physician resided in the West. 

“This study is useful in helping the public health community understand where to focus resources and interventions addressing the misuse of antibiotics, which is the greatest driving factors contributing to antibiotic resistance,” Rana Hamdy, assistant professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University and the director of the  antimicrobial stewardship program infectious disease specialist at Children’s National Hospital said. 

The study, “Geographic variability of antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory tract infections within a direct-to-consumer telemedicine practice” was published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology on May 13, 2022