The objectives of this study were to estimate the prevalence of cell phone and computer use among urban families bringing their children to an emergency department and to determine which technologies parents prefer to use to receive health information.
We visited 2 pediatric emergency departments in Baltimore, Md, and Little Rock, Ark. A convenience sample of parents of children 8 years old or younger completed a self-administered survey in the waiting area.
Two hundred thirty-eight surveys were completed. Respondents were primarily female (83%), less than 35 years old (74%), and had at least a high school diploma or General Educational Development (94%). Forty-three percent were employed full time. A majority (95%) of respondents reported owning a cell phone, with most (88%) owning a smartphone and 96% reported having some internet access. Of cell phone owners, 91% reported daily text messaging activity. Over half (63%) of respondents reported having computer internet access at home; 31% reported having internet access at work. Patterns of behavior and preferences emerged for both cell phone and computer use. Respondents were more likely to check their email (75% vs 50%, P < 0.0001) and access the internet (78% vs 67%, P = 0.002) with a smartphone rather than their computer.
Both cell phones and computers are prevalent and used among urban families seen in pediatric emergency departments, offering new ways to deliver health information to these often underserved populations. Providers aiming to deliver health information should consider smartphone applications, text message–based programs, and email to communicate with their patients.