Outcome progress letter types: parent and physician preferences for letters from pediatric mental health services.
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OBJECTIVE: To determine health care professional and parental preferences for receiving progress letters from a pediatric mental health program between a traditional text-only format and a version in which information was presented using graphs and tables with limited text. DESIGN: Mailed survey. SETTING: Nova Scotia. PARTICIPANTS: Parents (n = 98) of children who received treatment from and health care professionals (n = 74) who referred patients to the Strongest Families Program (formerly the Family Help Program) were eligible. Most of the health care professionals were family practitioners (83.8%). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Preference between 2 letters that contained the same content (including progress in the program, results from a questionnaire, and resolved and ongoing problems) in different formats--one using text only, the other using graphs as well as text. RESULTS: In total, 83.8% of health professionals and 76.5% of parents indicated that they preferred to receive feedback in letters containing information in graphical format. Background and demographic information did not predict preferences. Parents preferred to receive progress letters at the beginning, midway through, and at the end of treatment, and health professionals preferred to receive progress letters at the beginning and end of treatment. CONCLUSION: When receiving progress letters from a pediatric mental health program, health care professionals and parents preferred to receive letters that used graphs to help convey information.
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