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Veterans’ Affairs (VA) healthcare providers perceive that Veterans expect and base visit satisfaction on receiving antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections (URIs). No studies have tested this hypothesis. We sought to determine whether receiving and/or expecting antibiotics were associated with Veteran satisfaction with URI visits.
This cross-sectional study included Veterans evaluated for URI January 2018–December 2019 in an 18-clinic ambulatory VA primary-care system. We evaluated Veteran satisfaction via the Patient Satisfaction Questionnaire Short Form (RAND Corporation), an 18-item 5-point Likert scale survey. Additional items assessed Veteran antibiotic expectations. Antibiotic receipt was determined via medical record review. We used multivariable regression to evaluate whether antibiotic receipt and/or Veteran antibiotic expectations were associated with satisfaction. Subgroup analyses focused on Veterans who accurately remembered antibiotic prescribing during their URI visit.
Of 1,329 eligible Veterans, 432 (33%) participated. Antibiotic receipt was not associated with differences in mean total satisfaction (adjusted score difference, 0.6 points; 95% confidence interval [CI], −2.1 to 3.3). However, mean total satisfaction was lower for Veterans expecting an antibiotic (adjusted score difference −4.4 points; 95% CI −7.2 to −1.6). Among Veterans who accurately remembered the visit and did not receive an antibiotic, those who expected an antibiotic had lower mean satisfaction scores than those who did not (unadjusted score difference, −16.6 points; 95% CI, −24.6 to −8.6).
Veteran expectations for antibiotics, not antibiotic receipt, are associated with changes in satisfaction with outpatient URI visits. Future research should further explore patient expectations and development of patient-centered and provider-focused interventions to change patient antibiotic expectations.
Background: Antibiotics are not recommended but are often prescribed for upper respiratory-tract infections (URIs). Prescribers cite patient expectation as a driver of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing; prior literature has demonstrated higher satisfaction scores in patients who receive antibiotics compared to those who do not. We assessed whether veteran satisfaction at URI visits was associated with antibiotic receipt or with reported expectation for antibiotics. Methods: We surveyed veterans with documented URI encounters in the Veterans’ Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare System between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2019. Patients not evaluated in person, with documented dementia, or who died prior to the study start date were excluded. Veterans were asked to recall their URI visit and to complete the Patient Safety Questionnaire (PSQ)-18 (Rand Corporation) and questions assessing antibiotic expectations. The PSQ-18, an 18-item survey that assesses patient satisfaction, uses a 5-point Likert scale (ie, strongly disagree, disagree, uncertain, agree, strongly agree), yielding a composite score of 18–90. Higher scores represent more satisfaction with care. Demographic and visit-specific information were extracted via chart review. We used multivariable linear regression to assess differences in composite PSQ-18 satisfaction scores between those who did and did not receive an antibiotic, adjusted for patient and visit characteristics, and to assess differences in satisfaction scores for those who did and did not report expecting antibiotics, adjusted for antibiotic receipt. Results: We identified 1,435 patients seen for URI at 17 sites. After exclusions, 1,343 veterans were eligible for chart abstraction. After excluding 42 responders who responded after study close or returned blank surveys, the final analytic cohort included 432 (32.2%) of 1,343 responders; 225 (52.1%) received an antibiotic and 207 (47.9%) did not. Mean total satisfaction for veterans who received an antibiotic was 67.8 (SD, ±9.4) compared to 66.7 (SD, ±9.7) for those who did not (Figure 1). Increased total satisfaction was not significantly associated with antibiotic receipt (0.65; 95% CI, −2.0 to 3.3). Most veterans (72.0%) disagreed that visit satisfaction depended on antibiotic receipt. However, only 30.8% reported that they would not expect an antibiotic for URI visits. A significant reduction in total satisfaction (−4.1; 95% CI, −6.3 to −1.9) was associated with expecting compared to not expecting an antibiotic. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that prescribing an antibiotic is not associated with increased veteran satisfaction for URI visits but is associated with expecting an antibiotic. Future work will evaluate methods to change veteran antibiotic expectations.
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