Internet health information use and e-mail access by parents attending a paediatric emergency department

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Abstract

Objectives:

To document internet access and health related usage patterns by families of children in a large paediatric emergency department (ED), and to discover if parents want the internet to become a tool for transferring medical test results.

Methods:

This was a pre-tested, 21 item, interview conducted with parents at the paediatric ED in Toronto over 3 months. Descriptive statistics and frequency distributions were calculated and variables associated with parents wishing to access results electronically were examined.

Results:

In total, 950 parents completed the interview (93%), of whom 87% reported routine internet access, 75% reported having an e-mail account, and 60% accessed their e-mail once or more a day. Over half (56%) reported searching the internet for health related information, with 8.5% of these searching immediately preceding their visit. Nearly three quarters (73%) indicated they would like to receive an e-mail containing the results of tests conducted in the ED; 66% of all respondents and 89% of those with e-mail indicated that they would like their child’s primary care provider to receive information electronically.

Conclusion:

The majority of families have internet access and most want to receive medical information electronically and to send it to the primary provider. The vast use of internet for health related information emphasises the need to guide parents regarding reliable resources online, possibly as part of their ED visit.

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