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About Sickkids
About SickKids

August 31, 2005

SickKids study finds that the Internet can be an effective tool for the distribution of Emergency Department test results

TORONTO - Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have found that the Internet can be effectively used by parents to check test results after discharge from the SickKids Emergency Department. This research was reported in the August issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

Follow-up of patients after they are discharged from an emergency department can be a time-consuming and costly process. Often, laboratory tests, such as cultures, are not final until days after a patient has left the hospital. To report the results of a bacterial culture, emergency department staff, typically physicians, must reach the family by telephone.

“We conducted this study in order to find a cost-effective and efficient way to report on culture results to families,” said Dr. Ran Goldman , the study's principal investigator, staff physician in Paediatric Emergency Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology at SickKids, a SickKids associate scientist in Population Health Sciences and an associate professor of Paediatrics at The University of Toronto. “We thought of the Internet as a means to transfer the information in a fast, and secured way.”

The research team recruited families of children who had cultures taken and were discharged home from the emergency department. Parents or guardians were given a unique user ID and password to retrieve information on culture results from the study Web site. When the results were posted, an e-mail was sent to the family. Access patterns to the Web site were recorded and five to 10 days after the results were posted, a follow-up call was made to the family. The tests were a selection of blood cultures, throat cultures, urine cultures and skin wound cultures. The password protected Web site was developed and supported by SickKids' own Information Services Web Team.

The results of the study showed that 61 per cent of the caregivers involved in the study accessed their culture results record on the Internet-based system. Seventy-nine per cent of the families of children with positive cultures looked up their results on the system.

“While families with positive cultures largely checked their results online, we found that there is a need to improve their timeliness in checking in.” said Goldman.

The team hopes to conduct future studies to determine the cost-effectiveness of a Web-based system as well as addressing the transformation of the role of parents from one as a passive recipient of results to a more active one of seeking out the results, when ready, via computer.

The research team included Dr. Roula Antoon, Gordon Tait, Danielle Zimmer, Aiza Viegas and Dr. Bill Mounstephen, all from SickKids . This research was supported by the Creative Professional Activity Grant from Paediatric Consultants in the Department of Paediatrics at The Hospital for Sick Children and SickKids Foundation.

The Hospital for Sick Children, affiliated with the University of Toronto , is Canada 's most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children's health in the country. Its mission is to provide the best in family-centred, compassionate care, to lead in scientific and clinical advancement, and to prepare the next generation of leaders in child health. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca .

For more information, please contact:

Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Suite 1742, Public Affairs, First floor Atrium
Toronto, ON
M5G 1X8
Phone: 416-813-5058
Fax: 416-813-5328