Use of Social Psychology to Improve Adherence to National Bronchiolitis Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ bronchiolitis guidelines recommend against albuterol and corticosteroids for treating and chest radiographs (CRs) for diagnosing infants with bronchiolitis. However, high rates of nonadherence have been documented. Our objective was to improve guideline adherence in infants with bronchiolitis.


This quality improvement study was conducted in 1 urban academic pediatric primary care clinic caring for predominately minority and publicly insured children. We tested provider guideline education, display of guidelines in patient care areas, and monthly e-mails to all providers documenting deviation rates, with individual e-mails to providers who deviated. P-charts and interrupted time series analysis were used to estimate the effect of the intervention.


There were 380 children <2 years of age with a diagnosis of bronchiolitis in the 16 nonsummer months preintervention and 417 in the 15 postintervention months. Rates of prescribed and administered albuterol declined from 45.7% in the baseline period to 13.7% in the intervention period and CR use dropped from a mean of 10.1% to 3.4%, both demonstrating special cause variation. Steroid use did not change significantly. In interrupted time series analyses, the intervention was associated with a significant decrease in albuterol use (P < .001) but not in CR or steroid use. Emergency department visits declined slightly but admissions for bronchiolitis were stable.


Traditional quality improvement efforts coupled with social psychology techniques resulted in improved guideline adherence in outpatient bronchiolitis management. Additional study will help identify which techniques are most effective for increasing guideline adherence in cases of low-value care.