Objective: To assess parental perception of urgency of illness and compare this with an emergency department (ED) physician's assessment of the same.
Methods: A prospective study was conducted on convenience sample of parents/legal guardians of 800 patients presenting to the pediatric ED. Parents and physicians were asked to classify the urgency of their child's illness.
Results: For this study, we grouped the urgency of illness as "urgent" (care needed within 24 hours) and "nonurgent" (care could safely wait until the next day). Ninety-four percent of parents considered their child's illness as urgent and 6% as nonurgent. Of the patients whose parents perceived the illness as nonurgent, 31% were assessed by physicians as requiring urgent attention.
Conclusions: In our study, there was a significant discrepancy between the parental perceptions of urgency of illness and the ED physician assessment of the same. A significant proportion of children whose visits are perceived as nonurgent do require urgent care.