Parents often forgo the traditional doctor's office visit when kids are sick

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Poll suggests many parents aren't confident they can get a same-day appointment with their child's doctor

Kids who wake up with a sore throat and fever often aren’t swept away to their primary care doctor. Instead, four in 10 parents would take their sick child to an urgent care, retail clinic, or emergency center when illness suddenly strikes.

That’s a key takeaway from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, which included responses from 2,000 parents of children up to age 18. The survey also suggested parents are more confident they could get same-day phone advice than an office visit at their child’s doctor.

"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 health care provider," poll co-director and pediatrician Dr. Gary Freed said in a statement.

Phone consultations

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

The poll found that 42% of parents would call their child’s provider for advice without an office visit. More parents were confident they could get same-day phone advice (60%) than get in to see the doctor (53%), and just 10% of parents said they would email their child’s doctor for advice.

Phone and email can be an effective route of communicating with your child’s doctor when same-day visit openings are scarce, such as is the case during flu season. For minor illnesses, Freed says parents should consider these options before heading to an emergency department.

But parents should make sure they have discussed these types of situations with their child’s provider before illness strikes, he says.

Discuss before choosing a doctor

"When parents are picking a doctor for their child, they should discuss these types of situations ahead of time so they know what type of arrangements are made for urgent visits or advice," Freed says.

"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.”

A primary care office is often the most convenient, cost-efficient place to get the care your child needs when he or she is sick, Freed added. At walk-in options like urgent care, insurance coverage may be limited and the providers may not be familiar with your child's unique medical history. 

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