What parents think of virtual visits

Virtual visits with the doctor have become a fact of life for more families as a result of the pandemic. A new poll examines how parents feel about this change.

Over the past year, a visit to the doctor didn’t always mean going to the physician’s office and spending time in the waiting room with other families. Instead, it often involved visiting your health care provider virtually, using some form of telehealth. The newest poll from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, offered insight on how many children had a virtual visit, what determined the type of visit, and how happy the parents were with the type of the care received.1

The poll was sent to a sample of 2002 parents of children aged 0 to 18 years. Sixty-eight percent of the parents reported that their child had a health care visit since March 2020. In this subset, 80% of children had only in-person visits; 12% had a mix of in-person and virtual visits; and 8% of the children had only seen a health care professional virtually. Children aged 5 years and younger were the most likely to have seen a provider in either capacity.

More than half of the parents who had a child seen virtually said that it had either been suggested by the doctor or was the only available option to receive care; 34% made the choice because of concerns about exposure to COVID-19; and 33% made the choice to receive care virtually because it was more convenient than going to the doctor’s office. The reasons for the virtual visits were varied and included check-ups (32%), minor illnesses (22%), mental health (15%), and follow up visits (15%). Nearly every parent was happy with the experience (92%) and felt like all questions had been answered during the visit (92%). One out of 4 parents indicated the need for an in-person visit for the same issue and 11% of the parents reported having a technical problem.

When asked about future care, here was the breakdown in preference:

  • Fifty-four percent wanted either virtual visits or indicated no preference for a minor illness visit, and 46% would prefer in-person visits.
  • Forty-nine percent wanted either virtual visits or indicated no preference for a mental health visit, and 51% would prefer an in-person visit.
  • Twenty-three percent were okay with a virtual visit check-up, but 77% would prefer an in-person visit
  • Twenty-six percent would be okay with a virtual visit with a specialist, 74% prefer an in-person visit.

The study’s findings indicate that although most parents are still more comfortable with in-person visits overall that they had become comfortable with virtual visits. This increased comfort will likely lead to greater utilization of telemedicine and offer clinicians a new avenue to provide care, even potentially during after-hours when many parents might otherwise turn to retail clinics or urgent care.

Reference

1. C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. National Poll on Children's Health: Virtual visits for kids. 2021;38(4). Available at: https://mottpoll.org/reports/virtual-visits-kids. Published May 17, 2021. Accessed May 17, 2021.