Specialist care leaves parents in a quandary

February 4, 2014

Parents are often somewhat confused when it comes to obtaining specialist care for their children, according to a new poll.

 

Parents are often somewhat confused when it comes to obtaining specialist care for their children, according to a new poll.

The latest University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health finds that although almost half of children seen by a primary care provider (PCP) are referred to a specialist at some point, their parents are frequently unclear about whose responsibility it is to choose the specialist and to verify that the specialist visit will be covered by their health insurance.

According to the poll results, 52% of parents say the PCP should be responsible for choosing the specialist, while 48% say it should be the parent. Similarly, 55% say the PCP should verify health insurance coverage, while 45% say that’s the parent’s responsibility. In addition, 40% of parents say the PCP should ascertain that the time until the appointment with the specialist will not be long, but 60% say that’s up to the parents to determine.

Parents of children with Medicaid insurance are more likely than parents with private insurance to believe that PCPs should be responsible for choosing the specialist, setting up the appointment, and verifying health insurance coverage for specialist care.

When parents were asked to rank the importance of various characteristics concerning a specialist, 89% felt that the specialist’s knowledge of the child’s specific condition was the most important aspect, followed by training in pediatrics (80%); affiliation with a highly rated hospital (62%); involvement in research so that the child has access to the latest treatment (50%); and convenient appointment times (43%). Tied for last place were convenient location and other parents recommending the specialist, both at 38%.

Referring children for specialist care usually raises parents’ anxiety and concern, underscoring the importance of clear communication with parents about what is the responsibility of the primary care office and what is the responsibility of the parent. 

 

 

To get weekly clinical advice for today's pediatrician, subscribe to the Contemporary Pediatrics eConsult.