Study explores lack of privacy during medical exam among young adults

January 30, 2019

Private time and confidentiality are crucial to young adults who would otherwise be less willing to discuss sensitive topics with providers or skip necessary care altogether, says Stephanie Grilo of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York, who led a study on the subject.

The recent US study involved 1,918 young people ages 13 to 26 has found that only 55% of young women and 49% of young men have ever had private time during a medical exam.Of these, the youngest teens in the study were least likely to have private time with a clinician during a checkup – 22% of girls and 14% of boys aged 13-14, and 43% of teens aged 15-18. Unsurprisingly, more than 30% of women and almost 40% of men total the young adults who have never had private time with a clinician.

The study has recommended that teens and young adults get private time and discuss confidentiality with clinicians during their routine checkups.The recommendation is backed by several leading groups representing pediatricians, family practitioners and specialists in adolescent health and reproductive medicine that young patients need to be able to speak with clinicians about sensitive topics like sex, drugs and drinking, without repercussions. There are limits – a doctor will break confidentiality to alert the significant authority ifa teen discussed harming themselves or others. Grilo said that it is important for parents to know that such stress-free private time and confidentiality will keep adolescents in good health and should request it.

Study data has also highlighted that teens and young adults who did have private consultations had more positive attitudes about their providers and thought these interactions should happen at a younger age.

Sarah Clark, co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan noted that in supporting the transition from the pediatric system of care (the parent as the key partner to the clinical provider) to the adult system of care (the adolescent/young adult directly responds to the clinical provider), private time is much recommended. Clark was not involved in the study, but said doctors and parents should start gradually preparing children to make the most of private conversations during checkups as they near adolescence.

To better navigate the healthcare system as adults, parents can first encourage their teens to write down any health problems in advance, and then have them check-in and complete any forms themselves when they get to the doctor. This can be done from age 12 onwards. Parents can wait to speak during a visit, allowing the child to chiefly interact with the doctor, or they can volunteer to step out of the room to allow for private time.Clark advised that the early opportunity can promote teens’ independence and confidence.

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Category: Education, Features

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