Tipping the balance: A systematic review and meta-ethnography to unfold the complexity of surgical antimicrobial prescribing behavior in hospital settings

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Parker, H.
Frost, J.
Day, J.
Bethune, R.
Kajamaa, A.
Hand, K.
Robinson, S.
Mattick, K.
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*Anthropology, Cultural/methods , Anti-Bacterial Agents/therapeutic use , Health Personnel , *Hospitals , Humans , Qualitative Research
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Surgical specialties account for a high proportion of antimicrobial use in hospitals, and misuse has been widely reported resulting in unnecessary patient harm and antimicrobial resistance. We aimed to synthesize qualitative studies on surgical antimicrobial prescribing behavior, in hospital settings, to explain how and why contextual factors act and interact to influence practice. Stakeholder engagement was integrated throughout to ensure consideration of varying interpretive repertoires and that the findings were clinically meaningful. The meta-ethnography followed the seven phases outlined by Noblit and Hare. Eight databases were systematically searched without date restrictions. Supplementary searches were performed including forwards and backwards citation chasing and contacting first authors of included papers to highlight further work. Following screening, 14 papers were included in the meta-ethnography. Repeated reading of this work enabled identification of 48 concepts and subsequently eight overarching concepts: hierarchy; fear drives action; deprioritized; convention trumps evidence; complex judgments; discontinuity of care; team dynamics; and practice environment. The overarching concepts interacted to varying degrees but there was no consensus among stakeholders regarding an order of importance. Further abstraction of the overarching concepts led to the development of a conceptual model and a line-of-argument synthesis, which posits that social and structural mediators influence individual complex antimicrobial judgements and currently skew practice towards increased and unnecessary antimicrobial use. Crucially, our model provides insights into how we might 'tip the balance' towards more evidence-based antimicrobial use. Currently, healthcare workers deploy antimicrobials across the surgical pathway as a safety net to allay fears, reduce uncertainty and risk, and to mitigate against personal blame. Our synthesis indicates that prescribing is unlikely to change until the social and structural mediators driving practice are addressed. Furthermore, it suggests that research specifically exploring the context for effective and sustainable quality improvement stewardship initiatives in surgery is now urgent.
PLoS One. 2022 Jul 20;17(7):e0271454. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0271454. eCollection 2022.
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