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Study: Parents Want Free Online Consultations for Kids

October 23, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan reveals that parents are interested in receiving online options from their kids’ healthcare, but most aren’t interested in paying for such a service.

Researchers surveyed 1,420 parents with a child aged 0 to 17 years old, as part of the wide-ranging, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. Of those surveyed, 77 percent of parents said they would be likely to seek email advice for their children’s minor illness if that service were available.

Forty-eight percent of those polled felt an online consultation should be free, and half felt any charge for an e-mail consultation should be less than that of an office visit.  Only 6 percent of parents said they could currently get that e-mail advice from their child's healthcare provider.

“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,” stated Sarah Clark, associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University Of Michigan Department Of Pediatrics.

According to researchers, the results of this study fall in line with providers’ concerns about email consultation. Parents don’t appreciate the workload that goes with an email consultation, reviewing the child’s medical history, and documenting the email exchange within the child’s medical record. There are also concerns about making sure online systems are implemented to ensure the privacy and security of email exchanges.

In this vein, a recent study from the Oakland-based integrated care provider, Kaiser Permanente, revealed that children whose parents use a personal health record (PHR) were more likely to attend six or more of the nationally recommended well-child care visits by 15 months of age.

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Who is going to pay the caregiver to provide the email consultation?
Did those people who want this service free have any idea of how the person giving them this advice was going to be paid? To paraphrase one MD who had been providing "free" email advice to his patients, "I can never be off work". Should the caregivers office have someone to answer emails after their office is closed? If so who will pay this caregiver to be there with the email advice? There is no free lunch.

Thanks for the comment, couldn't agree more that there are a lot of questions on reimbursement. I do like the idea of an "on-call" emailer, but obviously how that person would get paid is up for debate.


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