Antibiotic prescribing by physicians in primary care institutions is common and affected by several factors. Diagnosis and treatment of infections in a nursing home (NH) resident is challenging, with the risk of both under- and overtreatment. Identifying barriers and facilitators of appropriate antibiotic prescribing in NHs and municipal acute care units (MACUs) is essential to ensure the most adequate antibiotic treatment possible and develop future antibiotic stewardship programs.
After implementing a one-year antibiotic quality improvement program, we conducted six semi-structured focus group interviews with physicians ( n = 11) and nurses ( n = 14) in 10 NHs and 3 MACUs located in the county of Østfold, Norway. We used a semi-structured interview guide covering multiple areas influencing antibiotic use to identify persistent barriers and facilitators of appropriate antibiotic prescribing after the intervention. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The content analysis was performed following the six phases of thematic analysis developed by Braun and Clarke.
We identified thirteen themes containing barriers and facilitators of the appropriateness of antibiotic use in primary care institutions. The themes were grouped into four main levels: Barriers and facilitators 1) at the clinical level, 2) at the resident level, 3) at the next of kin level, and 4) at the organisational level. Unclear clinical presentation of symptoms and lack of diagnostic possibilities were described as essential barriers to appropriate antibiotic use. At the same time, increased availability of the permanent nursing home physician and early and frequent dialogue with the residents’ next of kin were emphasized as facilitators of appropriate antibiotic use. The influence of nurses in the decision-making process regarding infection diagnostics and treatment was by both professions described as profound.
Our qualitative study identified four main levels containing several barriers and facilitators of appropriate antibiotic prescribing in Norwegian NHs and MACUs. Diagnostic uncertainty, frequent dialogue with next of kin and organisational factors should be targeted in future antibiotic stewardship programs in primary care institutions. In addition, for such programs to be as effective as possible, nurses should be included on equal terms with physicians.