Influence of awareness and availability of medical alternatives on parents seeking paediatric emergency care

Julia A. Ellbrant, S. Jonas Åkeson, Pia M. Karlsland Åkeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)


Aims: Direct seeking of care at paediatric emergency departments may result from an inadequate awareness or a short supply of medical alternatives. We therefore evaluated the care-seeking patterns, availability of medical options and initial medical assessments – with overall reference to socioeconomic status – of parents at an urban paediatric emergency department in a Scandinavian country providing free paediatric healthcare. Methods: The parents of children assessed by paediatric emergency department physicians at a Swedish university hospital over a 25-day winter period completed a questionnaire on recent medical contacts and their reasons for attendance. Additional information was obtained from ledgers, patient records and population demographics. Results: In total, 657 of 713 eligible patients (92%) were included. Seventy-nine per cent of their parents either failed to or managed to establish medical contact before the emergency department visit, whereas 21% sought care with no attempt at recent medical contact. Visits with a failed telephone or primary care contact (18%) were more common outside office hours (p=0.014) and were scored as less urgent (p=0.014). A perceived emergency was the main reason for no attempt at medical contact before the visit. Direct emergency department care-seeking was more common from the city district with the lowest socioeconomic status (p=0.027). Conclusions: Although most parents in this Swedish study tried to seek medical advice before attending a paediatric emergency department, perceived emergency, a short supply of telephone health line or primary care facilities and lower socioeconomic status contributed to direct care-seeking by almost 40% of parents. Pre-hospital awareness and the availability of medical alternatives with an emphasis on major differences in socioeconomic status should therefore be considered to further optimize care-seeking in paediatric emergency departments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-462
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Issue number4
Early online date2017 Oct
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jun

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy


  • Children
  • emergency department
  • paediatrics
  • primary care
  • seeking behaviour
  • socioeconomic status
  • telephone health line
  • urgency


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