Previous research shows that almost all parents – 98% – search for medical information about their children’s health. However, Libby M. Ward, MD, and colleagues point out that there is a gap in the literature regarding this search for information.
“There is no recent literature on how parents and guardians of pediatric ENT patients use the internet and social media to learn about their child’s surgery,” wrote Drs. Ward and colleagues in the American Journal of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery. “This information is important so that ENT doctors can have conversations about the information available online and inform parents and guardians where to find reliable information.”
To fill this gap, Dr. Ward and colleagues conducted a survey between April and August 2019 among caregivers of patients undergoing pediatric ENT surgery at a single medical center ear, nose and throat who could understand either English or Spanish. The study was completed by 105 nurses.
The 17-question survey asked about demographics, internet and social media use, parent/guardian research regarding the child’s surgery and the surgeon, and use of information obtained online.
Younger parents are more likely to do research
The question about internet and social media use was answered by 101 nurses or 96.2% of the respondents. More than half (59.4%) of these respondents responded that they used online resources to obtain information about their child’s procedure.
Age has been found to be a factor in online usage (Figure). With each additional year of age of the caregiver, the probability that this parent researched the Internet decreased by 2.5%. However, education, the caregiver’s relationship with the patient, annual income, race, and employment status were not significant factors in a caregiver’s use of the Internet to research medical information about their child.
The preferred tool for searching was Google (86.2%). Websites that nurses visited directly for medical information included YouTube (36.2%), Wikipedia (15.5%), hospital websites (8.6%), Facebook (3.4%), UpToDate (1 .7%), news sites (1.7%) and WebMD (1.7%).
The topics carers looked for were general information about their child’s planned surgery (68.5%), associated risks (52.8%), pain/recovery (45.3%), and information specific to their procedure /Condition (30.2%, n = 54). In terms of time spent searching, 77.0% spent <1 hour research of the operation online (n = 56).
Influence without tracking
Regarding the use of information found on the internet or via social media, 69.1% stated that the information they read influenced the health decisions they made for their child (n = 55). In addition, 85.1% believed the information was trustworthy and 96.2% said it was helpful. The majority said they would definitely or probably recommend the information (83.3%).
However, only 21.1% of caregivers discussed the information with their child’s surgeon.
Some of the participants stated that they did not search the internet for information about their child’s operation (40.6%). Those who did not search the internet gave the following reasons: the information from the doctor was sufficient (79.2%), the nurse received information from family members or friends (20.8%), the nurse was in a health-related profession ( 12.5%). ), the caregiver had another child who underwent surgery (12.5%) and the caregiver felt they had no choice (4.2%).
In search of the surgeon
Some caregivers (17%) collected information about their child’s surgeon from the internet. Of these supervisors, 73.3% were interested in surgeon experience, 33.3% in general information, 20.0% in surgeon education, 20.0% in surgeon ratings, 13.3% in availability of the surgeon surgeons, and 6.67% were interested in the surgeon’s published work.
Of the parents who conducted a search for their child’s surgeon, 69.2% said this information influenced their choice of surgeon.
“Parents ranked the surgeon’s experience as the most important piece of information they found, demonstrating the utility of highlighting the physician’s experience in online resources and communications,” wrote Drs. Ward and his colleagues. The researchers also noted the importance of ensuring parents can determine “what health information is factual and reliable when they search the internet.” Using the study results to engage in discussions with patients’ parents about how they use the Internet for health information will help ENT doctors better direct them to appropriate and accurate resources, they add, particularly those from professional societies, medical universities and the United States National Institutes of Health.