Sore throat: Effective communication delivers improved diagnosis, enhanced self-care and more rational use of antibiotics
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- International Journal of Clinical Practice, 2013, 67 (SUPPL. 180), pp. 10 - 16
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The majority of throat infections are of viral origin and resolve without antibiotic treatment. Despite this, antibiotic use for sore throat infections remains high, partly because it is difficult to determine when antibiotics may be useful, on the basis of physical findings alone. Antibiotics may be beneficial in bacterial throat infections under certain clinical and epidemiological circumstances; however, even many of those infections in which bacteria play a role do resolve just as quickly without antibiotics. Furthermore, non-medical factors such as patient expectations and patient pressure are also important drivers of antibiotic use. To address these issues, a behavioural change is required that can be facilitated by improved communication between primary healthcare providers and patients. In this article, we provide doctors, nurses and pharmacy staff, working in primary care or in the community, with a structured approach to sore throat management, with the aim of educating and empowering patients to self-manage their condition. The first component of this approach involves identifying and addressing patients' expectations and concerns with regard to their sore throat and eliciting their opinion on antibiotics. The second part is dedicated to a pragmatic assessment of the severity of the condition, with attention to red-flag symptoms and risk factors for serious complications. Rather than just focusing on the cause (bacterial or viral) of the upper respiratory tract infections as a rationale for antibiotic use, healthcare providers should instead consider the severity of the patient's condition and whether they are at high risk of complications. The third part involves counselling patients on effective self-management options and providing information on the expected clinical course. Such a structured approach to sore throat management, using empathetic, non-paternalistic language, combined with written patient information, will help to drive patient confidence in self-care and encourage them to accept the self-limiting character of the illness - important steps towards improving antibiotic stewardship in acute throat infections. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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