sick kid with dad

Parents want to email doctors, but for free

Most parents would like to consult with children’s healthcare providers by email, but half also say this service should be free, according to a new poll.

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 email 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 email consultation should be less than that of an office visit. And 48 percent of those polled felt an online consultation should be free.

“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, associate director of the C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital 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.” The poll surveyed 1,420 parents with a child aged 0 to 17 years old.

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 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.

Source: University of Michigan

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3 Comments

  1. Smeagol

    Well hell yeah I’d rather just text the Doctor my symptoms and have him diagnose me over the phone or internet, and just have him call in prescriptions for me. But that’s not how it works is it?

    Hell yeah I’d rather just talk to the doctor for free and not have to drive all the way to the hospital and take off work and pay $30 for a “yes…mmmm hmmm. I see….well drink lots of water and here’s some loratabs.”

  2. A Mom

    Our insurance company has nurses who provide medical advice, 24 hours a day. They have been really helpful. Having lived in the UK, I was quite surprised on my return to find out that my doctor’s office did not want to dispense advice. I had to bring our child in, which makes sense to the doctor’s office. Now I call our insurance nurses first, because we and the insurance company want to keep costs down.

  3. Really?

    Both my accountant and my lawyer charge over $200 (broken down into six-minute increments) an hour for visits, email and so on. Doctors have many more years of education than either of them. Why would their work be free?

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