Antibiotics Prescribed More Often to Children During Telemedicine Visits

Children with respiratory symptoms such as sniffling and a sore throat are more likely to be prescribed antibiotics if they're assessed during a telemedicine visit than if they're seen in person, a new study suggests.

It also found that many of those telemedicine-based prescriptions ignored medical guidelines meant to reduce the risk of side effects or contributing to antibiotic resistance, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The study of more than 340,000 children assessed for acute respiratory illness in 2015 and 2016 found antibiotic prescriptions were handed out in more than half of telemedicine visits, compared with 42 percent of urgent care clinic visits and 31 percent of doctor's office visits.

Failure to follow medical guidelines on matching treatment to diagnosis occurred in 4 of 10 antibiotic prescriptions dispensed during telemedicine visits, compared with 3 in 10 urgent care clinic visits and 2 in 10 doctor's office visits.

In most cases, that failure had to do with prescribing antibiotics for colds and flus, which cannot be treated with antibiotics, the AP reported.

The study was published online April 8 in the journal Pediatrics.

"I understand the desire for care that's more convenient and timely," lead author Dr. Kristin Ray, from the University of Pittsburgh, told the AP. "But we want to make sure that we don't sacrifice quality or safety or effectiveness in the process."

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