Healthcare providers frequently prescribed antibiotics to veterans with acute respiratory infections regardless of patient characteristics and clinical setting, according to recent data published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

However, the number of antibiotic prescriptions for acute respiratory infections varied among providers.

Researchers examined electronic health records from more than 1 million patient visits at 990 clinics or EDs at 130 VA medical centers in the United States between January 2005 and December 2012. Patients included in the analysis were primarily diagnosed with ARI and had generally low bacterial concentrations.

Findings included:

  • Nearly 70% of patients were prescribed antibiotics for acute respiratory infections.
  • A higher prevalence of antibiotic prescription was seen among patients diagnosed with sinusitis (86%), bronchitis (85%), and high fever (78%).
  • Antibiotics were more frequently prescribed in an urgent care setting (75%), the southern region (71%) and the central region (71%), and also in VA medical center-based clinics than community-based outpatient clinics (70% vs. 64%).