Study explores parents’ care expectations for children with acute gastroenteritis

Researchers from the Netherlands conducted a qualitative study to explore parental motivations, expectations, and experiences of off-hours primary care contacts for children with acute gastroenteritis. They conducted 14 semistructured interviews with parents who contacted primary care physicians outside of normal operating hours seeking medical attention for their children. Parents were more likely to contact their primary care physician after hours when their child exhibited unusual behavior, to prevent symptom deterioration, and to gain medical reassurances. The researchers reported that parents expected their doctors to perform a thorough physical examination, provide information, and make follow-up care agreements. Parents reported dissatisfaction if they felt their doctors didn't listen to them, misunderstood them, or didn't take them seriously. This increased their likelihood of seeking another consultation. Researchers concluded that there is often a mismatch between parental expectations and GPs' actions. Greater awareness and understanding on the part of GPs about the feelings and expectations of parents could guide them in interacting with parents, which may improve satisfaction with primary health care and reduce after-hours care requests.

What we know: Acute gastroenteritis is a common infectious disease in children aged under 6 years. Although it often resolves on its own, it has a high consultation rate in primary care, especially during out-of-office hours.

What this study adds: Researchers found that among parents who requested out-of-office consultations for their children who were experiencing gastroenteritis, those that felt misunderstood or not listened to by their doctors were more likely to request such a visit. Taking greater account and understanding about parents' feelings and expectations about care for their child may improve satisfaction with primary health care, specifically with requests that come in after normal clinic hours.

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