Parents Want Free Email Consults With Doctors
October 21, 2013

Majority Of Parents Want Email Consults With Docs, For Free

[ Watch The Video: Parents Want Email Consultations With Doctors ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

University of Michigan scientists have found most parents want email consults with doctors, but they don't want to pay for it. The university's National Poll on Children's Health found parents want online options from kids' health care providers, but half of them say it should be a free option.

Seventy-seven percent of parents said they want to get an email response about their children's minor illnesses rather than making an office visit. However, only six percent of parents said they currently receive email advice from their child's healthcare provider.

Survey respondents also said they paid between $0 to $30 in a co-pay for an office visit. However, about half of them felt any charge from an email consultation should be less than half, while 48 percent said it 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," said Sarah J. Clark, associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate researcher with 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.”

She said the findings from the team's survey shows the same concerns that health care providers have expressed about email consultation. Providers argue parents do not appreciate the unseen workload of email consultation, which involves reviewing the child's medical history and documenting the email exchange.

“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.

Doctors are concerned about making sure online systems are implemented to ensure the privacy and security of email exchanges. Some already provide email consultation along with a package of online and electronic services that can include family conferences, texting and web chats. However, these services come with an annual fee.

“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.