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Linder JA, Doctor JN, Friedberg MW, et al. Time of Day and the Decision to Prescribe Antibiotics. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(12):2029–2031. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.5225
Clinicians make many patient care decisions each day. The cumulative cognitive demand of these decisions may erode clinicians’ abilities to resist making potentially inappropriate choices. Psychologists, who refer to the erosion of self-control after making repeated decisions as decision fatigue,1,2 have found evidence that it affects nonmedical professionals. For example, as court sessions wear on, judges are more likely to deny parole, the “easier” or “safer” option.3
In primary care, prescribing unnecessary antibiotics for acute respiratory infections (ARIs) is a common, inappropriate service. Clinicians may prescribe unnecessary antibiotics—again, the easy, safe option—due to perceived or explicit patient demand, a desire to do something meaningful for patients, a desire to conclude visits quickly, or an unrealistic fear of complications.4,5 We hypothesized that decision fatigue, if present, would increase clinicians’ likelihood of prescribing antibiotics for patients presenting with ARIs as clinic sessions wore on.
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