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Technology Aids Urban Pediatric Clincs by Connecting with Caregivers

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Based on a study coming from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, inner-city pediatric clinics could better communicate with difficult to reach demographics by utilization of digital platforms such as e-mail and smartphones.

Published this week in the journal Pediatrics, the study surveyed caregivers bringing children to two inner-city pediactric main care centers in Cincinnati during the spring of 2012. The study observed and questioned the centers’ use and access to digital technology and their concern of receiving health information in such a way.

All in all, 257 caregivers, with an average age of 28, were asked. Seventy-three percent were black and 19 percent white. The average age of their children

was 2.9 year old. Ninety-two percent were publicly insured, and more than half lived in a governmentally definied poverty area, according to Medscape Medical News.

For the most part, such caregivers are difficult to get in contact with due to their frequent mobility and their phones being either disconnected or temporarily out of order.

Respondents were allotted a score between 0 and 4 representing their daily access to such digital technologies as home Internet, smartphone, email, and social media.

Ninety-seven percent scored at least 1, and nearly half (49 percent) used all four technologies. Eighty percent reported having home Internet access, while 71 percent said they had smartphone access, 91 percent had email and 78 percent were on Facebook. Only 27 percent of those surveyed used Twitter.

It was also noted that over 70 percent of caregivers said they would be inclined to use healthcare information transferred digitally from their healthcare provider. They displayed interest in information about common infections (77 percent); immunization schedules (73 percent); age-appropriate activities (73 percent); healthy eating tips (71 percent); infant child care (67 percent); well-child visits (65 percent); and links to community resources (62 percent).

A current report from a coalition of advocacy organizations, which includes the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and The National Council of La Raza, cautioned that health IT, while demonstrating the possibility of further development and improvement in care, could also marginalize poorer demographics.

It is obvious that while cell phones are hastily growing in numbers and usage, it is considered the most preferred choice of technology for low-income individuals, who usually work several other jobs and need more flexibility than a landline can provide.

The study also acknowledges and lauds the efforts of services like Text4baby, which supplies a text messaging service about newborn care and is also made available in Spanish.
In addition, a survey from the University of California San Francisco found that while low-income patients of public health clinics would like to communicate with their doctors online, such "saftey-net" services doesn't offer the needed patient portals or secure messaging systems.


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