Aim: We evaluated the extent to which parents understood the medical information about hospitalization of their child in an emergency department and looked for characteristics likely to increase the risk of poor comprehension.
Methods: Prospective multicenter study in thirteen paediatric emergency departments. The parents and doctors completed questionnaires based on closed-ended questions with a common core of four items: reasons of hospitalization, diagnosis, treatment and seriousness of child condition. We evaluated concordance between parents and doctor answers for these items by comparing their responses.
Results: This study included 380 parents. Percentage of concordance was 55% for the reason of hospitalization, 78% for the diagnosis, 92% for the treatment, 48% for the seriousness of the condition and 19% for all four items. The mean number of concordant items was 2.76 (CI 95%, 2.66–2.86). Parents whose children seemed not in pain and parents who received additional information from the nurse showed significantly slightly higher levels of concordance with doctor’s answers (2.98 vs 2.66, p = 0.006 and 2.89 vs 2.60, p = 0.004, respectively).
Conclusion: This study shows that improvements are required in the clarity of the information delivered to the parents. The assistance of nurses and optimal pain management may help to improve communication.