New study finds that despite professional guidelines that suggest teenagers and young adults have access to confidential services and time for private consultations, only about half of the young people in America report having time with their healthcare provider without a parent or someone else in the room. The findings of the study are published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
"Discussing confidentiality and having private time with a provider are critical components of comprehensive clinical preventive services for young people, however about half of young people report never having had these with their provider," said Stephanie Grilo, the article's lead author and a doctoral candidate at the Columbia Mailman School.
‘Providing private time and discussions of confidentiality can enhance the delivery of health care for young people by promoting positive youth attitudes about preventive care.’
"Regular providers need to begin discussion of private time and confidentiality at earlier ages."
Data were collected from 1918 adolescents and young adults through a 2016 national online survey. Respondents qualified if they were between the ages of 13 and 26 and spoke English or Spanish. Formative research conducted by Columbia University included focus group discussions with young people, parents, and health care providers.
The authors found that only 22 percent of 13- to 14- year old women and 14 percent of 13- to 14- year old men had ever had private time with a healthcare provider. Even among young adults, only about two-thirds of young adult women (68 percent) and men (61 percent) had ever experienced private time with their provider.
Of young women 13 to 26 years of age, 55 percent had reported ever having private time or having a discussion with their provider about confidentiality. For young men, these numbers were slightly lower, with 49 percent reporting ever having private time and 44 percent having discussed confidentiality. These percentages increased with age and higher income.
The receipt of private time was also impacted by the characteristics of providers; women providers were more likely to initiate patient discussions with young women but not necessarily with young men. The results also showed that young people who participated in risky behaviors specifically, those who were sexually active - also reported higher percentages of receiving private time or discussing confidentiality. This suggests providers may be targeting adolescents and young adults who have initiated involvement in risk behaviors for private conversations.
The researchers also found that young people who previously received private time and had discussed confidentiality with their provider had more positive attitudes about their provider and clinical preventive services.
"The gap between clinical recommendations and practice means there is a need for education of parents, providers, and adolescents on the importance of private time and confidentiality for adolescent and young adult care," noted Grilo. "Private time and confidentiality can enhance preventive care for young people in the United States."