Australian parents are crowding hospital emergency rooms with sicks kids while googling their offspring’s ailments on the internet, a new study has revealed.
The second Australian Child Health Poll, released this week, reveals that three in five parents asked Dr Google to help diagnose a sick kid in the past six months, even though most do not trust the information they found.
Half of the 2000 parents surveyed say they have used a hospital, including emergency departments, for child health advice instead of taking their child to a GP. This is even though family doctors are trusted “a lot”. Some parents have even asked their child’s teacher or a pharmacist for child health advice instead.
Paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes says the number of parents flocking to hospitals for minor health concerns is “startling”.
“Hospital EDs are highly trusted, but they are not the best place for the care of children with lower acuity conditions, who will typically face long wait times as critical patients are treated first,” she says
Dr Rhodes says the survey, carried out by the Royal Children’s Hospital, has revealed a “trust deficit” as Australian parents try to make sense of health information.
“This poll shows us for the first time that Australian parents are using sources of child health information that they just don’t trust,” Dr Rhodes says.
“This means that in seeking to better inform themselves about their kids’ health, parents may be consuming so much information that, ultimately, they become more worried and confused.”
Alternative health therapists, social media and celebrities are among the sources rarely or never used and not at all trusted by parents.
Dr Rhodes says parents need to know which sources of information to trust. She says helping parents evaluate the usefulness of online child health information sites, and doing more to promote sites that contain independent, authoritative health information would also help.
Pharmacists could also be used to distribute reliable and accurate information to parents, she adds.
“Likewise, our teachers know a lot about our children, but they are not medical professionals, so investment in providing child health information through our schools would be very sensible.”
“GPs, who emerged as the most trusted and most used source…could play an important role in helping families to evaluate and assess information obtained online,” she says.
Babyology recently revealed how parents could access bulk-billed, after hours doctor home visits for sick children.