To understand US parent health care-seeking decisions in the context of multiple in-person and telehealth care options. As the health care landscape evolves, new research is needed to explain how parents now decide when and where to seek acute pediatric health care.
We applied a mental models approach, focusing on the archetypal example of care-seeking for pediatric acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs), by first reviewing pediatric ARTI guidelines with 16 health care professionals to inform 40 subsequent semi-structured interviews with parents of young children in 2021. Interviews were qualitatively coded using thematic analysis, with code frequency and co-occurrence informing the final influence model of parent health care-seeking decisions.
Parent interviewees identified 33 decisional factors which were synthesized into seven dimensions influencing care-seeking decisions: perceived illness severity, perceived child susceptibility, parental self-efficacy, expected accessibility of care, expected affordability of care, expected quality of clinician, and expected quality of site. The first three dimensions (perceived severity, perceived susceptibility, parental self-efficacy) influenced an initial decision about whether to seek care, while all seven factors influenced a subsequent decision about where to seek care (e.g., in-person primary care, primary care-based telehealth, urgent care, direct-to-consumer telehealth). Uncertainty was present within many dimensions (e.g., severity, access, quality) indicating potential targets to support parent decision making processes and optimize care-seeking behaviors.
A mental models approach identified dimensions influencing parent choice to seek care and choice of care site for children with ARTIs, suggesting targets to advance family-centered practice and policy.
Abbreviations:ARTI (acute respiratory tract infection), DTC (direct-to-consumer), ED (emergency department), CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Plan), PCP (primary care provider), US (United States)
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Accepted: February 24, 2023
Received: October 24, 2022
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