Diagnosis and treatment of community-acquired pneumonia in patients with acute cough: a quantitative study of decision thresholds in primary care.

TitreDiagnosis and treatment of community-acquired pneumonia in patients with acute cough: a quantitative study of decision thresholds in primary care.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsEbell, MH, Locatelli, I, Mueller, YK, Senn, N, Morgan, K
JournalThe British journal of general practice
Date Published2018 Nov
Mots-clésantibiotics, chest, chest radiograph, community-acquired, Cough, decision thresholds, decision-making, Pneumonia, Radiography

BACKGROUND: Test and treatment thresholds have not yet been described for decision-making regarding the likelihood of pneumonia in patients with acute cough.

AIM: To determine decision thresholds in the management of patients with acute cough.

DESIGN AND SETTING: Set among primary care physicians attending meetings in the US and Switzerland, using data from a prospective cohort of primary care patients.

METHOD: Clinical vignettes were used to study the clinical decisions of physicians regarding eight patients with cough that varied by six signs and symptoms. The probability of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) was determined for each vignette based on a multivariate model. A previously published approach based on logistic regression was used to determine test and treatment thresholds.

RESULTS: In total, 256 physicians made 764 clinical decisions. Initial physician estimates systematically overestimated the likelihood of CAP; 75% estimating a higher probability than that predicted by the multivariate model. Given the probability of CAP from a multivariate model, 16.7% (125 of 749) changed their decision from 'treat' to 'test' or 'test' to 'rule out', whereas only 3.5% (26/749) changed their decision from 'rule out' to 'test' or 'test' to 'treat'. Test and treatment thresholds were 9.5% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 8.7 to 10.5) and 43.1% (95% CI = 40.1 to 46.4) and were updated to 12.7% (95% CI = 11.7 to 13.8) and 51.3% (95% CI = 48.3 to 54.9) once the true probability of CAP was given. Test thresholds were consistent between subgroups. Treatment thresholds were higher if radiography was available, for Swiss physicians, and for non-primary care physicians.

CONCLUSION: Test and treatment thresholds for CAP in patients with acute cough were 9.5% and 43.1%, respectively. Physicians tended to overestimate the likelihood of CAP, and providing information from a clinical decision rule (CDR) changed about 1 in 6 clinical decisions.

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Alternate JournalBr J Gen Pract
Citation Key / SERVAL ID9215
Peer reviewRefereed
PubMed ID30348882
PubMed Central IDPMC6193794


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