We conduct an audit study in which a pair of simulated patients with identical flu-like complaints visits the same physician. Simulated patient A is instructed to ask a question that showcases his/her knowledge of appropriate antibiotic use, whereas patient B is instructed to say nothing beyond describing his/her symptoms. We find that a patient who displays knowledge of appropriate antibiotics use reduces both antibiotic prescription rates and drug expenditures. Such knowledge also increases physicians’ information provision about possible side effects, but has a negative impact on the quality of the physician–patient interactions. Our results suggest that antibiotics abuse in China is not driven by patients actively demanding antibiotics, but is largely a supply-side phenomenon.
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