Background: The Internet may represent an opportunity for health care providers in the emergency department (ED) to deliver discharge instructions and after-care educational materials electronically to patients and their caregivers.
Objectives: The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of Internet access and use among caregivers of children who visit the ED and to evaluate their interest in receiving after-care communication and educational material electronically.
Methods: We distributed a self-administered survey to a convenience sample of English-speaking caregivers of children who presented to the ED of an urban, academic, pediatric hospital during November and December 2009.
Results: The survey was distributed to and completed by 509 English-speaking respondents. Of the participants, 423 (83.1%) of 509 identified themselves as black/African American, and 397 (77.9%) of 509 were publicly insured. Of the participants, 503 of 509 (98.9%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 97.9%–99.8%) reported that they have access to the Internet. Of the participants with Internet access, 312 of 503 (62.0%; 95% CI, 57.8%–66.3%) have access at home, 166 of 503 (33.0%; 95% CI, 28.9%–33.1%) have access at work, and 112 of 503 (22.3%; 95% CI, 18.6%–25.9%) have access by mobile phone. When asked about electronic communication and social networking, 483 of 503 (96.0%; 95% CI, 94.3%–97.7%) have an e-mail account, and 304 of 503 (60.4%; 95% CI, 56.2%–64.7%) have a Facebook account. Furthermore, 353 of 503 (70.1%; 95% CI, 66.2%–74.2%) reported accessing the Internet daily, whereas 128 of 503 (25.4%; 95% CI, 21.6%–29.3%) access the Internet at least 2 to 6 times per week. Among all respondents, interest in receiving communication from the ED only electronically was expressed by 259 of 509 participants (50.9%; 95% CI, 46.5%–55.2%). Approximately one third of the participants (173/509 [34%; 95% CI, 29.9%–38.1%]) expressed interest in an electronic channel for communication between the ED and their child’s patient primary care provider.
Conclusions: In this predominantly minority and economically disadvantaged population of caregivers presenting to an urban pediatric ED, a large majority reported regular access to the Internet and willingness and ability to receive communication from the ED via electronic means.