Adolescence is a unique period in development when young individuals initiate behavior and make decisions that have lifelong health and safety consequences. During care delivery, this patient population may be afraid to express their feelings and discuss their medical conditions due to confidentiality (Pathak & Chou, 2019). To prevent this barrier, the healthcare provider must determine when it is appropriate to disclose medical information to parents while ensuring the law is followed.
Phillip is a 16-year-old presenting with drug issues that are a threat to his health and safety. The patient only agrees to discuss his drug problems without the presence of his parents. According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines, the parents should have access to medical records for children under the age of 18 with a few exceptions (Pathak & Chou, 2019). For example, the parent may not be allowed to access the minor’s records when the parent agrees that the clinician and minor may have a confidential relationship (Pathak & Chou, 2019). In some cases, like when a minor obtains care at the direction of the court, the parents may not have access to the patient’s health information.
The healthcare provider must understand that HIPAA rules exist to create trusting environments between patients and their doctors. The provider should assess if the patient poses a danger of violence to themselves or others and confidentiality can be breached in such circumstances (U.S Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). Apart from the federal laws that govern confidentiality, the provider should consider state laws that may conflict with the patient’s care and disclosure of medical information. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services (2017) explains that when the state provides adolescents with the right to obtain mental health treatment without the parent’s consent, the parent ceases to be their representative.
Pathak, P. R., & Chou, A. (2019). Confidential care for adolescents in the U.S. health care system. Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews, 6(1), 46–50. https://doi.org/10.17294/2330-0698.1656
U.S Department of Health and Human Services. (2017). Can a minor child’s doctor talk to the child’s parent about the patient’s mental health status and needs? https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/faq/2092/can-minor-childs-doctor-talk-childs-parent-about-patients-mental-health-status-and-needs.html
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