Acute Gastroenteritis: A Qualitative Study of Parental Motivations, Expectations, and Experiences During Out-of-Hours Primary Care

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PURPOSE: Acute gastroenteritis is a common infectious disease in children younger than 6 years of age. Although it is a self-limiting disease, it nevertheless has a high consultation rate in primary care, especially during out-of-hours primary care (OOH-PC). Reasons for this high consultation rate remain unclear.

METHODS: The aim of this qualitative study was to explore parental motivations, expectations, and experiences of OOH-PC contacts for children with acute gastroenteritis. We conducted 14 semistructured interviews with parents who contacted OOH-PC in the Netherlands. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using elements of grounded theory and a constant-comparison approach.

RESULTS: Unusual behavior of the sick child, absent micturition, and ongoing vomiting and/or diarrhea, with decreased or no fluid intake, motivated parents to contact OOH-PC. Parents initiated contact to prevent symptom deterioration and to be reassured by a general practitioner (GP), expecting them to perform a thorough physical examination, provide information, and make follow-up plans. Parents reported dissatisfaction if they felt unheard, misunderstood, or not taken seriously, and this increased their likelihood of seeking another consultation. General practitioners did not always meet parental expectations.

CONCLUSION: Multiple factors affect the decision for parents to contact OOH-PC for their child with gastroenteritis. There is a mismatch between parental expectations and actions of the GP. Awareness regarding parental feelings and understanding their expectations can guide GPs in the interaction with parents, which could improve satisfaction with primary health care and OOH-PC specifically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-439
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Family Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept-2023

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