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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


eISSN: 1643-3750

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Factors Determining Parents’ Decisions to Bring Their Children to the Pediatric Emergency Department for a Minor Illness

Sigita Burokienė, Juozas Raistenskis, Emilija Burokaitė, Rimantė Čerkauskienė, Vytautas Usonis

(Clinic of Children’s Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania)

Med Sci Monit 2017; 23:4141-4148

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.902639

BACKGROUND: The number of children visiting Emergency Departments (EDs) is increasing in Lithuania; therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the factors influencing the parental decision to bring their child to the ED for a minor illness that could be managed in a primary healthcare setting, and to compare parents’ and medical professionals’ attitudes toward a child’s health status and need for urgent care.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: A prospective observational study was performed at the tertiary-level teaching Children’s Hospital in Vilnius. A total of 381 patients’ parents were interviewed using an original questionnaire based on Andersen’s behavioral model of healthcare utilization; in addition, the medical records of patients were reviewed to identify factors that might have an impact on parental decisions to bring their child to the ED for a minor health problem. The study participants were enrolled from October 1, 2013 to August 31, 2014. The urgency of medical care needed to be provided to the patients was evaluated by a tertiary-level triage system.
RESULTS: Based on the assessment of the triage nurses, the need for emergency care to patients was distributed as follows: 298 patients (78.2%) needed non-urgent care and 83 patients (21.8%) needed urgent care. More than one-third (38.8%) of the parents reported that they came to the ED due to their child’s urgent care need and worsened child’s health; however, the opinion of ED professionals indicated only a fifth of patients required urgent care. Parents who brought their children to the ED without physician referral were five times more likely to visit the ED during evening hours and on weekends (OR=5.416; 95% CI, 3.259–8.99; p<0.001). The decision to come to the ED without visiting a primary care physician was made more often by parents with a higher income (OR=2.153; 95% CI, 1.167–3.97) and those who came due to children having rash (OR=4.303; 95% CI, 1.089–16.995) or fever (OR=3.463; 95% CI, 1.01–11.876). Older parents were 2.07 (95% CI, 1.1224–3.506) times more likely to evaluate their child’s health unfavorably than younger parents.
CONCLUSIONS: We identified predisposing, enabling, and need factors that influenced the parents’ decision to bring their child to the ED for minor health problems that could be managed by a primary care physician. Parents assessed their child’s condition more critically and thought that their child required urgent medical aid more frequently than healthcare professionals.

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