Objectives: To determine the types of health care interventions physicians provided to their own children, identify those conditions most often treated by physician-parents, compare the differences in treatment practices among physician groups, and explore the reasons physicians give for treating their own children.
Setting: University-affiliated teaching hospital in Iowa City, Iowa.
Participants: Three hundred fifty-three physicians in residency and fellowship training and faculty who were parents of children aged 18 years or younger.
Measurements/main results: The majority of physicians reported treating their afebrile child for acute illness. Fifty-five percent of physicians reported that they rarely or never treated their febrile child (temperature > 38.3 degrees C) without consultation with the child's physician. Only 47% of physicians reported that they always performed a physical examination on their child before treating. Physician-parents were more likely to auscultate the child's chest or perform otoscopy and less likely to obtain urine samples or throat swabs for culture before treating. Sixty-two percent of physicians reported that they have never performed routine health maintenance examinations on their own children, but 29% referred their children to a specialist. Medications were prescribed for their children by 65% of physicians. Neither gender nor level of training influenced the treatment practices of physician-parents. Primary care physicians were less likely to contact the child's physician for advice in treating their febrile child than were subspecialists. Pediatricians more often treated their afebrile and febrile children, performed physical examinations and laboratory studies, and prescribed medications than did other primary care physicians. Convenience was the most important reason physicians gave for treating their own children.
Conclusions: Physicians frequently treat their own ill children, prescribe medications for them, and self-refer them to specialists largely for the sake of convenience.