How paediatricians communicate with parents who access online health information

Publication Name

Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health


Aims: Recent years have seen an exponential increase in the proportion of parents searching for online health information on their child's medical condition. We investigated the experiences, attitudes and approaches of paediatricians interacting with parents who search for online health information and the impact on the doctor–parent relationship. Methods: This qualitative study was conducted utilising semi-structured interviews with 17 paediatric physicians, surgeons, anaesthetists and trainees working in an Australian children's hospital. Data were analysed through deductive and inductive thematic analysis using line-by-line coding. Results: Three key themes were identified: paediatricians' experiences with, and attitudes towards, parents using online health information; paediatricians' communication approaches; and the perceived impact on the doctor–parent relationship. These themes demonstrated that most paediatricians acknowledged the information parents found and directed parents to reliable websites. Following discussions with Internet-informed parents, a few changed their management plans and a few reported discouraging parents from further searching online. Conclusions: Our results indicate that paediatricians predominantly used patient-centred communication strategies to care for patients in partnership with parents. Paediatricians contextualising online health information can contribute to a quality partnership with parents and facilitate shared decision-making, potentially fostering better health outcomes for children. Our conclusions may inform clinicians' communication approaches when interacting with Internet-informed parents and stimulate research about more effective doctor–parent communication approaches. In a digital age, paediatricians may benefit from employing more time-efficient approaches to manage increasing workloads with their new role of digital stewardship of parents.

Open Access Status

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