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Barriers to optimal antibiotic use for community-acquired pneumonia at hospitals: a qualitative study
  1. Jeroen A Schouten1,3,
  2. Marlies E J L Hulscher1,
  3. Stephanie Natsch2,4,
  4. Bart-Jan Kullberg2,3,
  5. Jos W M van der Meer2,3,
  6. Richard P T M Grol1
  1. 1Centre for Quality of Care Research, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  2. 2Nijmegen University Centre for Infectious Diseases (NUCI), Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  3. 3Department of Internal Medicine, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  4. 4Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J A Schouten
 Centre for Quality of Care Research (117), Radboud University Medical Centre, PO Box 9101, Nijmegen, The Netherlands; j.schouten{at}


Background: Physician adherence to key recommendations of guidelines for community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is often not optimal. A better understanding of factors influencing optimal performance is needed to plan effective change.

Methods: The authors used semistructured interviews with care providers in three Dutch medium-sized hospitals to qualitatively study and understand barriers to appropriate antibiotic use in patients with CAP. They discussed recommendations about the prescription of empirical antibiotic therapy that adheres to the guidelines, timely administration of antibiotics, adjusting antibiotic dosage to accommodate decreased renal function, switching and streamlining therapy, and blood and sputum culturing. The authors then classified the barriers each recommendation faced into categories using a conceptual framework (Cabana).

Results: Eighteen interviews were performed with residents and specialists in pulmonology and internal medicine, with medical microbiologists and a clinical pharmacist. Two additional multidisciplinary small group interviews which included nurses were performed. Each guideline recommendation elicited a different type of barrier. Regarding the choice of guideline-adherent empirical therapy, treating physicians said that they worried about patient outcome when prescribing narrow-spectrum antibiotic therapy. Regarding the timeliness of antibiotic administration, barriers such as conflicting guidelines and organisational factors (for example, delayed laboratory results, antibiotics not directly available, lack of time) were reported. Not streamlining therapy after culture results became available was thought to be due to the physicians’ attitude of “never change a winning team”.

Conclusions: Efforts to improve the use of antibiotics for patients with CAP should consider the range of barriers that care providers face. Each recommendation meets its own barriers. Interventions to improve adherence should be tailored to these factors.

  • CAP, community-acquired pneumonia

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • The ethics board of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre approved the study protocol and all interviewees gave their written consent.

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