Do digital interventions for parents of children with acute illnesses improve treatment seeking behaviour?

Talk Code: 
Emily Donovan
Merlin Wilcox, Chris Willcox
Author institutions: 
Univ of Southampton


Acute illnesses in children are a common reason for seeking urgent care. These include infections (for example viral infections, gastroenteritis, febrile illnesses, respiratory infections and urinary infections) and non-infectious presentations (for example minor head injuries). The challenge is that although the majority are self-limiting, a small number can become severe and even life-threatening. It is important to give evidence-based advice to prevent inappropriate treatment-seeking for children with minor illnesses, while signposting those with signs of severe illness to urgent care services.


A systematic review to assess the literature. This will be used for background for the department that is working alongside a paediatrician who has developed a mobile application to help parents of children under 5 access the appropriate advice and consultation.


No RCTs have been done to access the effectiveness of digital interventions in changing health seeking behaviour of parents of children under 5 with acute illnesses. This is still a work in progress and only 1 relevant article out of 2339 articles has been found, and it was not an RCT.


Research is needed in this area. Digital interventions could be an important way of appropriately triaging parents to self care, in a way that current interventions such as 111, have not. This could ensure urgent care consultations are kept for those children requiring them. A secondary outcome of parents not presenting to health care providers due to appropriate self care would be a decline in unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions.

Submitted by: 
emily donovan
Funding acknowledgement: 
I am a GP academic clinical fellow funded by NIHR.