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Parents want e-mail consults with doctors, but don’t want to pay for them

Most parents want online options from kids’ health care providers, but half say it should be free, according to U-M’s National Poll on Children’s Health

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Most parents would love to get an e-mail response from their kids’ health care provider for a minor illness rather than making an office visit, but about half say that online consultation should be free, according to a new University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. In the poll this month, 77 percent of parents said they would be likely to seek email advice for their children’s minor illness if that service were available. Only 6 percent of parents said they could currently get that e-mail advice from their child's health care provider. Parents in the poll reported a range of co-pays charged for office visits, from nothing to $30 per visit. But about half of those polled felt any charge for an e-mail consultation should be less than that of an office visit. And 48 percent of those polled felt an online consultation should be free. The poll surveyed 1,420 parents with a child aged 0 to 17 years old. “Most parents know it can be inconvenient to schedule and get to an office visit for a sick child. An email consultation would prevent the hassles of scheduling and allow sick children to remain at home. Email also could be available after hours when their caregiver’s office is closed, says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H. , associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics. “But many health care providers don’t have co-pays established for this kind of consultation, so we decided to ask parents what they think.” Clark says the results of this poll mirror concerns that health care providers have expressed about email consultation. Providers argue that parents do not appreciate the unseen workload of email consultation, such as reviewing the child’s medical history, and documenting the email exchange within the child’s medical record, says Clark, who also is associate director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit. “Providers also worry about creating an expectation that they are on call to answer emails at all hours of the day. No one wants a child’s care delayed if an email can’t be answered right away,” Clark says. There also are concerns about making sure online systems are implemented to ensure the privacy and security of email exchanges. Some health care providers already offer email consultation along with a package of online/electronic services that can include family conferences, texting and Web chats. These often come with a monthly or annual fee, rather than a fee per transaction. “But given the overwhelming desire from parents for an email option, we hope these poll results can get the discussion started on the best way to use technology to get better, more convenient care options for young patients but still provides a workable solution for both providers and parents,” Clark says. Broadcast-quality video is available on request. See the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WQsASgsAfM Full report: C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health http://mottnpch.org/reports-surveys/email-consultation-co-pay-or-no-pay Website: Check out the Poll’s website: MottNPCH.org. You can search and browse over 80 NPCH Reports, suggest topics for future polls, share your opinion in a quick poll, and view information on popular topics. The National Poll on Children’s Health team welcomes feedback on the website, including features you’d like to see added. To share feedback, e-mail NPCH@med.umich.edu. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mottnpch Twitter: @MottNPCH Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health – based at the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan and funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and the University of Michigan Health System – is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children. Data Source: This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by GfK Custom Research, LLC (GfK) for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies.  The survey was administered in June 2013 to a randomly selected, stratified group of parents age 18 or older with a child age 0-17 (n= 1,420), from GfK’s web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, 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 51 percent among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ±2 to 4 percentage points and higher among subgroups. Findings from the U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan. ###

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