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Pediatrics. 2019 May;143(5). pii: e20182491. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-2491. Epub 2019 Apr 8.

Antibiotic Prescribing During Pediatric Direct-to-Consumer Telemedicine Visits.

Author information

Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;
Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts.
RAND Corporation, Boston, Massachusetts.
Division of Infectious Diseases, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
RAND Corporation, Arlington, Virginia; and.
Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.



Use of commercial direct-to-consumer (DTC) telemedicine outside of the pediatric medical home is increasing among children, and acute respiratory infections (ARIs) are the most commonly diagnosed condition at DTC telemedicine visits. Our objective was to compare the quality of antibiotic prescribing for ARIs among children across 3 settings: DTC telemedicine, urgent care, and the primary care provider (PCP) office.


In a retrospective cohort study using 2015-2016 claims data from a large national commercial health plan, we identified ARI visits by children (0-17 years old), excluding visits with comorbidities that could affect antibiotic decisions. Visits were matched on age, sex, chronic medical complexity, state, rurality, health plan type, and ARI diagnosis category. Within the matched sample, we compared the percentage of ARI visits with any antibiotic prescribing and the percentage of ARI visits with guideline-concordant antibiotic management.


There were 4604 DTC telemedicine, 38 408 urgent care, and 485 201 PCP visits for ARIs in the matched sample. Antibiotic prescribing was higher for DTC telemedicine visits than for other settings (52% of DTC telemedicine visits versus 42% urgent care and 31% PCP visits; P < .001 for both comparisons). Guideline-concordant antibiotic management was lower at DTC telemedicine visits than at other settings (59% of DTC telemedicine visits versus 67% urgent care and 78% PCP visits; P < .001 for both comparisons).


At DTC telemedicine visits, children with ARIs were more likely to receive antibiotics and less likely to receive guideline-concordant antibiotic management compared to children at PCP visits and urgent care visits.


Conflict of interest statement

POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

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