Objectives: To determine whether seeking advice prior to an unscheduled visit to a pediatric emergency department (PED) influences appropriate use of this setting for minor illnesses.
Design: Cross-sectional questionnaire survey.
Setting: The medical emergency department of the Montreal (Quebec) Children's Hospital, a major referral and urban teaching hospital.
Participants: Four hundred eighty-nine of 562 consecutive parents visiting the PED over two periods, one in February and the other in July 1989.
Measurements/main results: Parents of children between 0 and 18 years of age visiting the PED were asked whether they had previously sought advice from family, friends, or a physician. Other factors possibly related to the decision to seek care were also measured. Appropriateness was rated, blind to discharge diagnosis, by two pediatricians using a structured series of questions incorporating the child's age, time of the visit, clinical state, and problem at presentation. Thirty-four percent of visits among respondents were judged appropriate. In bivariate analysis, appropriate visits occurred significantly more often when a parent spoke to both a physician and a nonphysician (47%) prior to visiting the PED than when no advice was sought (29%; P < .05). In multivariate analysis, having a regular physician and being one of two children also contributed to appropriateness.
Conclusions: Appropriate use of the PED was positively influenced by seeking prior advice from both a physician and family member, having a regular physician, and having prior child care experience.