Clinical and social barriers to antimicrobial stewardship in pulmonary medicine: A qualitative study

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Abstract

Background

The treatment of pulmonary infections is one of the largest indications for antibiotics in human health care, offering significant potential for antibiotic optimization internationally. This study explores the perspectives of pulmonary clinicians on antibiotic use in hospital pulmonary infections.

Methods

Twenty-eight pulmonary doctors and nurses from 2 hospitals participated in semi-structured interviews focusing on their experiences of antibiotic use.

Results

Barriers to antibiotic optimization in pulmonary infections were identified. Clinical barriers are as follows. The first is differentiating pneumonia vs chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: differentiating pulmonary diagnoses was reported as challenging, leading to overtreatment. The second is differentiating viral vs bacterial: diagnostic differentiation was perceived to contribute to excess antibiotic use. The third is differentiating colonization vs pathogen: the interpretation of ambiguous results was reported to lead to under- or overprescribing depending on the perspective of the treating team. Social barriers are as follows. The first is the perception of resistance: antibiotic resistance was not perceived as an immediate threat. The second is the perceived value of antibiotic clinical guidelines: there was mistrust in antibiotic guidelines. The third is hospital hierarchies: hierarchical structures had a significant influence on prescribing.

Conclusions

Substantial barriers to antibiotic optimization in pulmonary infections were identified. To facilitate change in antibiotic use there must be a systematic understanding and interventions to address specific clinical issues. In the case of pulmonary medicine, significant identified issues, such as mistrust in clinical guidelines and diagnostic challenges, need to be addressed.

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