Reports from the field-Pediatrics

Parents, children, physicians must talk to improve care

Good communication among physicians, parents, and their children is essential to good pediatric care. A recent consumer survey found that luckily few parents had problems communicating with their primary physician, which is good news for the beleaguered managed care industry.

Researchers field-tested a tool designed to assess the interpersonal care of children based on parental responses. More than 3,000 Washington state employees who were insured through the state employee benefits program were surveyed.

Using a rating scale of zero to 10 where 10 is the highest positive rating, findings include:

• Parents gave their personal doctor's care a rating of 8.37.

• Parents gave the overall quality of care provided to their children a rating of 8.27.

• Parents gave the care provided to their children by specialists a rating of 8.21.

• Parents gave their health plans an overall rating of 7.07.

In addition, 88% of parents reported that it was easy to find a personal physician among the plan's choices, and 82% reported that they were always or usually able to get help when they phoned their doctor.

Parents say seeing specialists is difficult

However, the study findings were not all rosy. Parents reported that access to specialists was more difficult. Among parents whose children needed to see specialists in the past six months, 13.4% reported the child was not able to see a specialist. Another 25% of parents in that group reported it was not easy to get a specialty referral when needed. In addition, performance in the more administrative aspects of health care, such as waiting times, also rated lower but did not affect overall experience ratings as much as physician relationship issues, report researchers.

[See: Homer CJ, Fowler FJ, Gallagher PM, et al. The Consumer Assessment of Health Plan Study survey of children's health care. Jt Comm J Qual Improv 1999; 25: 369-377.] n