“ePediatrics”: Parents want more communication with their kids’ doctors

May 17, 2010 Volume 9 Issue 5
  • Less than 15% of parents are currently able to have online or email communication with their children’s health care providers.
  • One-half of parents feel it would be very helpful to have electronic communication with their children’s health care providers.

Health care reform legislation includes broad promotion of electronic health records (EHRs), to improve the efficiency and quality of medical care. Much of the focus has been on the cost and challenges of introducing EHRs into clinical settings. Yet, little attention has been paid to understanding how patients use electronic communication—such as email or the internet—to interact efficiently with the health care system. The CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked parents about communicating electronically with their children’s health care providers.

Parent Interest in Online Services

Less than 10% of parents currently are able to use email or the internet for administrative tasks, such as scheduling an appointment or obtaining an immunization record (Table 1). Less than 15% of parents use email or the internet for clinical actions, such as requesting a prescription refill or getting medical advice (Table 1). About one-half of parents reported that it would be very helpful to be able to accomplish administrative and clinical tasks via e-mail or the internet (Table 1).

Implications

Electronic communication between parents and their children’s health care providers offers numerous potential benefits. For administrative tasks that almost all parents need to complete, electronic communication can reduce wasted time and minimize frustration for both parents and office staff. For clinical services, parents often have questions about whether minor injuries or illnesses require an office visit; electronic communication provides a way to obtain advice without waiting on hold for long periods of time.

Nevertheless, there are challenges to electronic communication between parents and their children’s providers. Health care providers have expressed concerns about medical liability associated with offering clinical advice via email or internet, without examining the patient. Additional provider concerns relate to reimbursement for services provided electronically. Given the strong endorsement for electronic communication from this national sample of parents, significant efforts should be made to address these challenges.

Data Source

This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc, for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered January 1-18, 2010, to a randomly selected, stratified group of parents aged 18 and older (n= 1,612) with children 0-17 years of age from the Knowledge Networks standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 71% among parent panel members contacted to participate. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1 to 4 percentage points.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amy T. Butchart, MPH

This Report includes research findings from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, which do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan.

[For parents with a child aged 0-17]

Q1. Which of the following can you currently do by email or Internet (not telephone) with your child(ren)’s regular health care provider?

(select one response in each row)

  Yes No Don't Know
Schedule an appointment      
Complete a checklist or screening form prior to a well-child visit      
Get advice regarding a minor illness or injury      
Obtain a copy of child’s immunization record      
Request a prescription refill      
Obtain lab results      

Q2. How HELPFUL would you find it to do the following by email or Internet (not telephone) with your child(ren)’s regular health care provider?

(select one response in each row)

  Not at all Somewhat helpful Very helpful
Schedule an appointment      
Complete a checklist or screening form prior to a well-child visit      
Get advice regarding a minor illness or injury      
Obtain a copy of child’s immunization record      
Request a prescription refill      
Obtain lab results      

Parent participants were also asked demographic questions on child age, gender, health status, and insurance status. Adults were also asked questions on race/ ethnicity, household income, education, health status and insurance status.

All information is the sole property of the University of Michigan CS Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.  It can only be used if there is an acknowledgment that "The information came from, is copyright by and is owned by and belongs to the Regents of the University of Michigan and their C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. It cannot be republished or used in any format without prior written permission from the University."

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amy T. Butchart, MPH

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Current and future online communication with children's health care providers