China has a large population of children under 18 years of age, whose health is of great concern to the Chinese health care system. However, few studies have been conducted to analyze the factors associated with children’s unnecessary health care utilization in China. The objective of this study is to provide some empirical evidence on this issue by investigating the role of parental health care utilization in children’s unnecessary health care use.
The data were obtained from the fifth Health Service Survey of Shaanxi province in 2013. We employed three dependent variables to measure children’s health care utilization: the number of children’s outpatient visits during the past 2 weeks, whether or not infusion was used if the child had any outpatient visits during the past 2 weeks, and the number of children’s inpatient visits during last year. Based on specific characteristics of these outcome variables, negative binomial models were used for the non-negative numbers of outpatient and inpatient visits, while a probit model was used for the zero-one indicator variable showing whether infusion was used during outpatient visits.
Based on a sample of 11,024 children, our results of multivariate analysis showed that children whose parents used outpatient care were estimated to have a larger number of outpatient visits than those whose parents did not have outpatient visits in the past 2 weeks (with a difference of 0.0393 visits). Among children having outpatient visits in the last 2 weeks, the probability of obtaining infusion was 57.01 percentage points higher for children whose parents used infusion in the past 2 weeks than the probability for those whose parents did not use infusion. The predicted number of inpatient visits was higher for children whose parents used inpatient services in the last year, compared with the group whose parents did not use (with a difference of 0.0567 visits). Moreover, we noted that the positive association between parental and children’s health care use was more prominent among younger children.
Chinese children whose parents were high health care users were more likely to overuse health care services, holding other factors constant. Parents can play an important role in reducing children’s unnecessary outpatient visits, infusion use, and inpatient visits. The results suggest that interventions aimed at affecting patterns of parental use may be helpful in improving appropriate health care utilization for children.