Context and general practitioner decision-making - a scoping review of contextual influence on antibiotic prescribing
Method - The authors searched Medline, Embase and Cinahl databases for English language articles published between 1946 and 2019, focusing on general practitioner prescribing of antibiotics. Articles discussing decision-making, reasoning, judgement, or uncertainty in relation to antibiotic prescribing were assessed. As no universal definition of context has been agreed, any papers discussing terms synonymous with context were reviewed. Terms encountered included contextual factors, non-medical factors, and non-clinical factors.
Results - Three hundred seventy-seven full text articles were assessed for eligibility, resulting in the inclusion of 47. This article documented the experiences of general practitioners from over 18 countries, collected in 47 papers, over the course of 3 decades.
Contextual factors fell under 7 themes that emerged in the process of analysis. These were space and place, time, stress and emotion, patient characteristics, therapeutic relationship, negotiating decisions and practice style, managing uncertainty, and clinical experience. Contextual presence was in every part of the consultation process, was vital to management, and often resulted in prescribing.
Conclusion - Context is essential in real life decision-making, and yet it does not feature in current representations of clinical decision-making. With an incomplete picture of how doctors make decisions in real life practice, we risk missing important opportunities to improve decision-making, such as antibiotic prescribing.