Privacy in Health Care Important to Adolescents

Informational privacy most important; psychological, social, physical privacy also valued

TUESDAY, Nov. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Adolescents are most concerned about the privacy of their health information, but also are sensitive to the psychological, social, and physical aspects of privacy encountered in health care situations, according to a study published online Nov. 22 in Pediatrics.

Maria T. Britto, M.D., of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and colleagues conducted 12 focus groups for 54 adolescents (aged 11 to 19 years) with and without chronic illness. Each group was matched for age, gender, and health status. The groups discussed health care privacy and confidentiality, and the feedback was categorized as representations of concern for informational, psychological, social, or physical privacy.

The researchers found that protection of private information was most important to the adolescents as a whole, with younger adolescents sensitive about information being revealed to health care providers and older adolescents concerned about information being revealed to parents. The adolescents also were sensitive about being judged by health care providers (psychological privacy) and about having to share information with multiple or unfamiliar providers (social privacy). They also were more comfortable with examinations by female than male health care providers and said they thought about their physical safety during physical exams (physical privacy).

"Minor changes in communication and office practice such as asking permission to discuss sensitive topics, explaining the importance of asking personal questions, and increasing privacy during physical examinations may enhance adolescents' experience of receiving care," the authors write.

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