Poll: Parents take different paths to expert care for sick children

Having a sick child is stressful for any parent—with many of them seeking medical advice as soon as possible. The annual C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll examined the approaches parents take to get medical advice quickly and safely for their children.

The survey included responses from 2,036 parents with children up to 18 years old on experiences getting medical advice from a healthcare provider. While 89 percent of parents attempt to schedule an appointment, only 53 percent are confident they will be able to get one for same-day care. Confidence climbs to 60 percent when asked if they could get same-day advice via the telephone, but only 25 percent were confident in receiving email advice the same day. Parents have also explored other options, with 11 percent trying to receive information through a patient portal.

"Most parents want timely medical advice when their child is sick, and it can be frustrating when they don't feel like they have immediate access to a healthcare provider," said Gary Freed, MD, poll co-director and pediatrician.

When parents were asked what route they would take to receiving medical advice when the child wakes up with a fever and sore throat, responses varied:

  • 42 percent would take their child to an urgent care, retail clinic or emergency department.
  • 42 percent would call their provider for advice.
  • 60 percent would call for an appointment.
  • 10 percent would use email communication for advice.

"More parents seem to be utilizing alternatives to a traditional office visit, such as having a consult by phone,” said Freed. "Our poll found that four in 10 parents would turn to a walk-in option like urgent care if their child woke up in the morning with a sore throat and fever. While these services may seem convenient, parents should recognize that these providers may not be familiar with their child's medical history and insurance coverage may be limited. Every provider has a different system in place to address parent concerns when their child is ill, and parents should look for one that best matches their expectations. More often than not, a primary care office is still the most convenient, cost efficient place to get the care and health advice your child needs."