More than 70 private doctors will have their antibiotic-prescribing patterns monitored under the first programme of its kind in the city.
The programme, organised by the Centre for Health Protection, the University of Hong Kong and the Medical Association, aims at prescription behaviour of private practitioners.
The participating doctors will report antibiotics prescriptions on four selected days a year as a 'snapshot' for analysis by microbiologists and pharmacists to check if the drugs have been properly used.
Raymond Yung Wai-hung, head of the infection control branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said that unlike in hospitals, where doctors' work is closely audited, private practitioners are subject to little monitoring.
But the effectiveness of the audit programme has been questioned, with Donald Li Kwok-tung, former president of the College of Family Physicians, doubting it will reflect reality.
'It is logical that the doctors who join the programme are those whose practices are good. The findings may give the public a wrong impression,' Dr Li said.
Hong Kong Medical Association president Choi Kin defended the plan, saying any study or pilot programme 'has to start from somewhere'.
However, he does not agree that the government should audit doctors' prescriptions.
'I don't see how the department of health, for example, can come in to check doctors' medical records as this will involve patient confidentiality,' Dr Choi said.
'Another issue is which yardstick the department can possibly use to judge if a prescription of antibiotics is right or wrong. It is a clinical judgment.'