To prescribe or not to prescribe? A factorial survey to explore veterinarians' decision making when prescribing antimicrobials to sheep and beef farmers in the UK.

Research paper by Charlotte C Doidge, Chris C Hudson, Fiona F Lovatt, Jasmeet J Kaler

Indexed on: 12 Apr '19Published on: 10 Apr '19Published in: PloS one


Resistance to antimicrobials is one of the biggest challenges worldwide for public health. A key strategy for tackling this is ensuring judicious use of antimicrobials in human and veterinary medicine. Whilst there are many studies in human medicine investigating prescribing behaviour of doctors, there is limited work to understand what factors influence veterinarian prescribing behaviour. Veterinarians often prescribe antimicrobials to sheep and beef farmers in contexts other than at a clinical consultation, and decision-making behind this has not been explored. The aim of this study was to measure, for the first time, the influence of factors from social theories on veterinarians' decision to prescribe antimicrobials to sheep and beef farmers without a clinical consultation, using a factorial survey approach. Respondents were presented with eight vignette scenarios, where a farmer asks for antimicrobials at the veterinary practice. Seven factors, identified from constructs of social theories, were included in the vignettes. Random intercept and random slope models were built to estimate the effects of the vignette factors and vet characteristics on the respondents' willingness to prescribe ratings. A total of 306 surveys were completed. The vignette factors: case type, farmer relationship, other veterinarians in practice, time pressure, habit, willingness to pay, and confidence in the farmer, were significant in the decision to prescribe. Confidence in the farmer was the most influential vignette variable, and was included as a random slope effect. Respondent variables with significant influence on the decision to prescribe were agreeableness personality score, region of veterinary practice, and presence of a small animal department. These influential factors could be considered to target interventions in beef and sheep farm animal veterinary practice for improved antimicrobial stewardship.