ePrescribing-Based Antimicrobial Stewardship Practices in an English National Health Service Hospital: Qualitative Interview Study Among Medical Prescribers and Pharmacists

Kathrin Cresswell, Susan Hinder, Aziz Sheikh, Sarah Pontefract, Neil W Watson, David Price, Andrew Heed, Jamie Coleman, Holly Ennis, Jillian Beggs, Antony Chuter, Robin Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Antimicrobial resistance, the ability of microorganisms to survive antimicrobial drugs, is a public health emergency. Although electronic prescribing (ePrescribing)-based interventions designed to reduce unnecessary antimicrobial usage exist, these often do not integrate effectively with existing workflows. As a result, ePrescribing-based interventions may have limited impact in addressing antimicrobial resistance.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to understand the existing ePrescribing-based antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) practices in an English hospital preceding the implementation of functionality designed to improve AMS.

METHODS: We conducted 18 semistructured interviews with medical prescribers and pharmacists with varying levels of seniority exploring current AMS practices and investigating potential areas for improvement. Participants were recruited with the help of local gatekeepers. Topic guides sought to explore both formal and informal practices surrounding AMS, and challenges and opportunities for ePrescribing-based intervention. We coded audio-recorded and transcribed data with the help of the Technology, People, Organizations, and Macroenvironmental factors framework, allowing emerging themes to be added inductively. We used NVivo 12 (QSR International) to facilitate coding.

RESULTS: Antimicrobial prescribing and review processes were characterized by competing priorities and uncertainty of prescribers and reviewers around prescribing decisions. For example, medical prescribers often had to face trade-offs between individual patient benefit and more diffuse population health benefits, and the rationale for prescribing decisions was not always clear. Prescribing involved a complex set of activities carried out by various health care practitioners who each only had a partial and temporary view of the whole process, and whose relationships were characterized by deeply engrained hierarchies that shaped interactions and varied across specialties. For example, newly qualified doctors and pharmacists were hesitant to change a consultant's prescribing decision when reviewing prescriptions. Multidisciplinary communication, collaboration, and coordination promoted good AMS practices by reducing uncertainty.

CONCLUSIONS: Design of ePrescribing-based interventions to improve AMS needs to take into account the multitude of actors and organizational complexities involved in the prescribing and review processes. Interventions that help reduce prescriber or reviewer uncertainty and improve multidisciplinary collaboration surrounding initial antimicrobial prescribing and subsequent prescription review are most likely to be effective. Without such attention, interventions are unlikely to fulfill their goal of improving patient outcomes and combatting antimicrobial resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere37863
Pages (from-to)e37863
JournalJMIR formative research
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • antimicrobial resistance
  • antimicrobial stewardship
  • electronic prescribing
  • hospitals


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