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The University of Southampton
Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

Do digital interventions for parents of acutely ill children improve treatment-seeking behaviour?

This research was presented on behalf of the team by Dr Merlin Willcox at the Global-NAMRIP Festival of Early Career Research on 25 June 2019. The poster can be downloaded by following the 'Useful Downloads' link below.


The number of consultations for self-limiting infections in children is increasing, and digital technology may support decision-making of parents/carers about accessing healthcare for their children. Our systematic review evaluates the evidence for using digital interventions as a support tool for parents/carers to improve health seeking behaviour for acute illnesses in children.

Three studies involving 4838 participants were included. They assessed ‘Children’s On Call’ (US advice-only app), ‘Should I see a doctor?’  (Dutch self-triage app for any acute illness) and ‘SORT for Kids’ (US self-triage website for influenza-like illness). None of the studies stated using target end-users during intervention development. Only ‘Sort for Kids’ had good satisfaction amongst users.  None demonstrated a reduction in use of urgent care services, and although 65% of ‘Should I see a doctor?’ users stated that they intended to follow the app’s advice, the proportion who heeded this advice wasn’t reported.

Little evidence supports using digital interventions as a parent/carer support tool for acute childhood illness. Future interventions should involve target end-users during development to ensure good usability/satisfaction, and adequately-powered trials are needed to ensure unnecessary use of urgent-care services is avoided, while correctly identifying children with serious illnesses. 

Authors: Donovan E1, Wilcox CR1,2, Patel S3, Hay AD4, Little P1, Willcox ML1

1: Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Aldermoor Health Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

2: NIHR Clinical Research Facility, University Hospital SouthamptonNHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK

3: University Hospital Southampton, Tremina Road, Southampton, UK

4: Centre for Academic Primary Care, Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

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