Objective To evaluate the effectiveness of feedback on safety of prescribing compared with moderately enhanced usual care.
Design Three arm, highly pragmatic cluster randomised trial.
Setting and participants 262/278 (94%) primary care practices in three Scottish health boards.
Interventions Practices were randomised to: “usual care,” consisting of emailed educational material with support for searching to identify patients (88 practices at baseline, 86 analysed); usual care plus feedback on practice’s high risk prescribing sent quarterly on five occasions (87 practices, 86 analysed); or usual care plus the same feedback incorporating a behavioural change component (87 practices, 86 analysed).
Main outcome measures The primary outcome was a patient level composite of six prescribing measures relating to high risk use of antipsychotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and antiplatelets. Secondary outcomes were the six individual measures. The primary analysis compared high risk prescribing in the two feedback arms against usual care at 15 months. Secondary analyses examined immediate change and change in trend of high risk prescribing associated with implementation of the intervention within each arm.
Results In the primary analysis, high risk prescribing as measured by the primary outcome fell from 6.0% (3332/55 896) to 5.1% (2845/55 872) in the usual care arm, compared with 5.9% (3341/56 194) to 4.6% (2587/56 478) in the feedback only arm (odds ratio 0.88 (95% confidence interval 0.80 to 0.96) compared with usual care; P=0.007) and 6.2% (3634/58 569) to 4.6% (2686/58 582) in the feedback plus behavioural change component arm (0.86 (0.78 to 0.95); P=0.002). In the pre-specified secondary analysis of change in trend within each arm, the usual care educational intervention had no effect on the existing declining trend in high risk prescribing. Both types of feedback were associated with significantly more rapid decline in high risk prescribing after the intervention compared with before.
Conclusions Feedback of prescribing safety data was effective at reducing high risk prescribing. The intervention would be feasible to implement at scale in contexts where electronic health records are in general use.
Trial registration Clinical trials NCT01602705.