Objective: To examine the utilization, satisfaction, and parental health-seeking behavior associated with the introduction of the Parent Advice Line (PAL), a collection of 278 recorded health-related messages accessible by telephone, into a private practice.
Design: Booklets listing PAL topics were mailed to eligible families, and utilization data were collected for all incoming PAL calls from June to August 1996. Satisfaction and effect on health-seeking behavior were assessed using a recorded questionnaire appended to each call (n = 561) and a randomized telephone questionnaire (n = 821).
Setting: A suburban, 7-pediatrician practice in Colorado.
Patients: Families with children younger than 12 years seen in the practice within 2 years (N = 8365).
Results: Of families who reported receiving the mailed PAL booklet, 32% used PAL. Sixty percent of PAL calls were placed during office hours, 21% from 5 PM to 9 PM, and 8% after midnight; call volume was higher on weekdays than on weekend days (25 calls per day vs 10 calls per day, respectively; P<.05 by chi2 test). The 5 most commonly requested topic categories were toilet training, sexual development, discipline problems, sleep problems, and teenage behavior. Preventive care topics predominated in infants, behavioral topics in preschool children, and acute illness topics in school-aged children. Of users, 88% were satisfied or very satisfied and 98% said that they would use PAL again. Respondents to the 2 questionnaires reported that use of PAL made a call or visit to their child's physician unnecessary 58% to 69% and 61% to 70% of the time, respectively.
Conclusions: The PAL was used primarily to access information about behavioral and developmental issues during office hours. Its use was associated with high rates of satisfaction and, by parental report, decreased calls or visits to a physician.