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Counsel Parents on Practice Policy for Same-day Sick Child Visits

April 17th, 2017

ANN ARBOR, MI — While urgent care centers, retail clinics, or EDs are all options for children with a sore throat and fever, many parents prefer to take their child to their family doctor.

The problem is that only about half feel fairly sure that they would be able to get their child in the day they call, suggests a national poll. Report authors recommend that physicians discuss options with parents ahead of time so that they know where to go and what to do with a sick child.

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health compiles responses from a national sample of 2,036 parents of children from infancy to the late teens. Respondents were asked what occurred when they tried to get immediate medical care or advice for a sick youngster.

Overall, 42% of parents said they would go to urgent care, retail clinic, or an ED. In addition, 42% said they would call their doctor’s office for advice and not seek an office visit. The reason? While 60% responded that they were confident they could get care recommendations over the phone, only 53% thought it was likely they could get in to see a physician.

"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," explained Mott poll co-director and pediatrician Gary Freed, MD.

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Despite a proliferation of electronic devices, only 10% thought discussing a child’s health with a provider through email was an option.

"More parents seem to be utilizing alternatives to a traditional office visit, such as having a consult by phone,” Freed pointed out. “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."

The report notes that the limited number of "sick visits" available each day can be filled quickly during the winter or flu outbreaks. Freed advises that physicians should counsel parents on what to do when their children wake up sick.

"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,” he added. “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."

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