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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2004 Jan;52(1):39-45.

Antibiotic treatment of acute respiratory tract infections in the elderly: effect of a multidimensional educational intervention.

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Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94118, USA.



: To measure and improve antibiotic use for acute respiratory tract infections (ARIs) in the elderly.


: Prospective, nonrandomized controlled trial.


: Ambulatory office practices in Denver metropolitan area (n=4 intervention practices; n=51 control practices).


: Consecutive patients enrolled in a Medicare managed care program who were diagnosed with ARIs during baseline (winter 2000/2001) and intervention (winter 2001/2002) periods. A total of 4,270 patient visits were analyzed (including 341 patient visits in intervention practices).


: Appropriate antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance educational materials were mailed to intervention practice households. Waiting and examination room posters were provided to intervention office practices.


: Antibiotic prescription rates, based on administrative office visit and pharmacy data, for total and condition-specific ARIs.


: There was wide variation in antibiotic prescription rates for ARIs across unique practices, ranging from 21% to 88% (median=54%). Antibiotic prescription rates varied little by patient age, sex, and underlying chronic lung disease. Prescription rates varied by diagnosis: sinusitis (69%), bronchitis (59%), pharyngitis (50%), and nonspecific upper respiratory tract infection (26%). The educational intervention was not associated with greater reduction in antibiotic prescription rates for total or condition-specific ARIs beyond a modest secular trend (P=.79).


: Wide variation in antibiotic prescription rates suggests that quality improvement efforts are needed to optimize antibiotic use in the elderly. In the setting of an ongoing physician intervention, a patient education intervention had little effect. Factors other than patient expectations and demands may play a stronger role in antibiotic treatment decisions in elderly populations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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