Practitioners in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Akron Children’s Hospital carry out a careful balancing act when it comes to maintaining confidentiality of teen health information.
Teens under law are entitled to confidential health services for some matters, such as sexual health and mental health issues. But the issue can be confusing. Laws vary state to state, and policies may differ between health systems.
Physician groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics support adolescent access to confidential services. Your adolescent and a healthcare provider should be able to talk privately about health concerns.
You, the parent, may have questions about what information can remain between your child and his or her doctor, and under what circumstances you should be informed.
Dr. Jessica Castonguay, an adolescent medicine physician and Akron Children’s, said some parents worry about teen confidentiality. “It’s not about keeping secrets,” she said. “We’re part of the team, and we’re trying to help your child be as healthy as he can be. It’s about providing care they need. We hope they share it with their family. Whether they do or don’t, we will include parents when the need arises, if we are worried about a child’s well-being or safety.”
With a parent’s permission, patients 12 and older can sign up for their own password-protected MyChart account at Akron Children’s. The online account allows patients to:
- View test results
- Send a message to the doctor’s office
- View and print immunization records
- Search and view personal health information
“I see it as a tool to help teens become more independent with their health care,” Dr. Castonguay said. “This helps transition them from a child to a functioning adult in the medical world. It helps teach adolescents how to be good health care consumers.”
Your child’s doctor may ask for your permission to have a confidential arrangement – and also discuss with parents and patients that insurance claims could result in disclosure of some confidential information.
- Minors don’t need parental consent for birth control or to be diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted diseases. They also have a right to privacy with regard to HIV testing, pregnancy and abortion.
- Teens 14 and older can receive outpatient mental health care without parental consent for up to 6 sessions or 30 days, after which parental consent is necessary.
- Kids 12 and older have a right to confidential diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse.
Again, doctors encourage teens to talk with a parent or guardian about healthcare decisions. But for some teens, open communication is not possible because of problems in the home.
Doctors say the bottom line is that minors are more likely to seek care, especially reproductive health care, if they are assured privacy.
For questions about how to navigate and log in to MyChart, call 330-543-4400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.