Divergent intentions to use antibiotic guidelines: A theory of planned behavior survey

P.J. Cortoos*, B.H.J. Schreurs, W.E. Peetermans, K. de Witte, G. Laekeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background. To improve physicians' antimicrobial practice, it is important to identify barriers to and facilitators of guideline adherence and assess their relative importance. The theory of planned behavior permits such assessment and has been previously used for evaluating antibiotic use. According to this theory, guideline use is fueled by 3 factors: attitude, subjective norm (perceived social pressure regarding guidelines), and perceived behavioral control (PBC; perceived ability to follow the guideline). The authors aim to explore factors affecting guideline use in their hospital. Methods. Starting from their earlier observations, the authors constructed a questionnaire based on the theory of planned behavior, with an additional measure of habit strength. After pilot testing, the survey was distributed among physicians in a major teaching hospital. Results. Of 393 contacted physicians, 195 completed questionnaires were received (50.5% corrected response rate). Using multivariate analysis, the overall intention toward using antibiotic guidelines was not very predictable (model R-2 = .134). Habit strength (relative weight = .391) and PBC (relative weight = .354) were the principal significant predictors. A moderator effect of respondents' position (staff member v. resident) was found, with staff members' intention being significantly influenced only by habit strength and residents' intention by PBC. Regarding previously identified barriers, education on antibiotics and guidelines was rated unsatisfactory. Conclusions. These divergent origins of influence on guideline adherence point to different approaches for improvement. As habits strongly influence staff members, methods that focus on changing habits (e.g., automated decision support systems) are possible interventions. As residents' intention seems to be guided mainly by external influences and experienced control, this may make feedback, convenient guideline formats, and guideline familiarization more suitable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-153
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Decision Making
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • guidelines
  • antibiotics
  • questionnaire
  • theory of planned behavior

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