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Acad Emerg Med. 2009 Oct;16(10):934-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2009.00522.x.

Antibiotic prescriptions are associated with increased patient satisfaction with emergency department visits for acute respiratory tract infections.

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  • 1Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



Health care providers cite patient satisfaction as a common reason for prescribing antibiotics for viral acute upper respiratory infections (URIs), even though quality performance measures emphasize nonantibiotic treatment for these conditions. In a secondary analysis of a cluster-randomized trial to test a combined patient and physician educational intervention to reduce antibiotic prescribing for URIs, the authors examined whether satisfaction is greater among patients diagnosed with URIs who are prescribed antibiotics in emergency department (ED) settings.


This was a follow-up telephone survey of 959 patients who received care for acute respiratory infections at any of eight Veterans Administration (VA) hospital EDs or eight location-matched non-VA hospital EDs around the United States. Patients reported their satisfaction with the amount of time spent in the ED, the explanation of treatment, the provider treatment, and overall satisfaction on a five-point Likert scale. The primary measure of effect was the association between antibiotic prescription and visit satisfaction, adjusted for patient and visit characteristics.


Antibiotic treatment was significantly associated with increased overall visit satisfaction in non-VA EDs (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.97, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.23 to 3.17), but not VA EDs (adjusted OR = 1.13, 95% CI = 0.81 to 1.58). Patients managed in non-VA EDs who received antibiotics were also significantly more likely to be satisfied with the explanation of treatment and the manner in which they were treated by the provider.


Antibiotic prescriptions are associated with increased overall patient satisfaction in non-VA, but not VA, ED visits for URIs. Continued efforts to reduce unnecessary prescriptions in these settings must address ways to maintain patient satisfaction and still reduce antibiotic prescriptions.

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