Parents Want E-Communications With Their Kids' Doctors

Less than 1 in 6 report availability of e-mail, Internet communications with kids' health care providers; half say having e-access would be helpful

ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Health care reform legislation includes promoting electronic health records to improve the efficiency and quality of medical care. Yet, little attention has been paid to understanding whether patients and parents have an interest in, or have access to, electronic methods for interacting with their children's physicians.  

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health asked 1,612 parents of children ages 0-17 across the United States about how they communicate with their children's health care providers. The poll found that about one-half of parents think it would be very helpful to be able to accomplish administrative and clinical tasks such as requesting records or prescription refills through e-mail or online.

Half of parents would like to have access to electronic communication features with their children's doctor's office.  However, less than 15 percent of parents report they are currently able to use e-mail or the Internet to schedule appointments, to receive immunization or lab records, complete screening forms, request prescription refills or get medical advice.  

"Electronic communication between parents and their children's health care providers offers a lot of potential benefits," says Matthew Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the Poll and associate professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases in the CHEAR Unit at the U-M Medical School.  "For administrative tasks that almost all parents need to complete, electronic communication can reduce wasted time and minimize frustration for both parents and office staff. For clinical services, parents often have questions about whether minor injuries or illnesses require an office visit; electronic communication provides a way to obtain advice without waiting on hold for long periods of time."

While having access to electronic methods of communicating with physicians may increase efficiency for parents, challenges exist for widespread adoption of online communication by physicians.

"Some health care providers have expressed concerns about reimbursement for electronic services that require staff time.  Others worry about medical liability associated with offering clinical advice via e-mail or the Internet, without examining the patient," says Davis, who is also associate professor of internal medicine and associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. "However, given the strong endorsement for electronic communication from this national sample of parents, significant efforts should be made to address these challenges.  The obvious advantages of electronic medical records – efficiency, clarity, documentation – are the same reasons why we should work to make e-communications available for our patients and families."

Methodology:  This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc, for C.S. Mott Children's Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered January 1-18, 2010, to a randomly selected, stratified group of parents aged 18 and older (n=1,612) from the Knowledge Networks standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau.  The survey completion rate was 71 percent among panel members contacted to participate.  The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1 to 4 percentage points.

To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit  

Purpose/Funding:  The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health – funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and part of the CHEAR Unit at the U-M Health System – is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children and their families.  

To learn more about the National Poll on Children's Health, visit:

SOURCE U-M C.S. Mott Children's Hospital