Adolescent Health Care, Confidentiality

Concerns about confidentiality may create barriers to open communication between patient and physician and may thus discourage adolescents from seeking necessary medical care and counseling.

When caring for an adolescent patient:

  • Privacy should be respected by physicians and their staff. The adolescent should be offered an opportunity for examination and counseling separate from parents/guardians.
  • The physician should make a reasonable effort to encourage the adolescent to involve parents or guardians in healthcare decisions.
  • Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and patients should be made aware that certain situations and circumstances create limitations on guaranteed confidentiality.  For example, detailing billing statements and Explanation of Benefits notices may be furnished to a guarantor/parent from a third party.  Further, information suggesting someone is in imminenet danger, the suspicion or evidence of abuse, and the diagnosis of certain communicable diseases all must be reported to the proper authorities.
  • Family physicians should be aware of their community's standards regarding adolescent confidentiality. State laws vary, but in general, in areas of care where the adolescent has the legal right to give consent, confidentiality must be maintained.
  • Family physicians using electronic medical records should consult their vendor to be certain patient portals are properly configured to meet state standards regarding confidentiality for adolescents who parents and guardians have proxy access to their records.

Ultimately, regarding confidentiality, the judgment by the physician regarding the best medical interest and safety of the patient should prevail.  (1988) (2013 COD)