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Private Discussions Increase Teens’ Willingness to Talk with their Doctors

Update Date: Jul 30, 2014 01:56 PM EDT

In order to receive optimal medical care, patients and doctors must have a good rapport. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of having the option to speak privately and confidentially with doctors on teenagers. They found that teens were more likely to disclose their health concerns when they could speak with their doctors without their parents present.

"There is substantial evidence that adolescents get better care when a [health care] visit is confidential, especially in regard to certain topics, such as reproductive healthcare," stated lead study author Amy Gilbert, JD, MPH, from the department of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. "We wanted to look in more detail at what topics are impacted by a visit being confidential."

The researchers analyzed data on 500 teens between the ages of 13 and 17 who participated in online surveys. The team also looked at survey data provided by 504 parents from December 2012 to January 2013. The researchers calculated that less than 50 percent of the teens and parents reported having the option to talk to their doctors in private, whether it was for the whole appointment or only a portion of it.

They found that when teens were able to have a private appointment with their doctors, they were more likely to cover some of the 11 important health topics, which included sexual health, mental health, and risk behaviors, such as drugs and alcohol. The team reported that teens shared the most information during partially confidential doctor appointments. Confidentially did not affect the teens' willingness to share information about their weight, vaccines or any issues happening at home.

"I think that's a very meaningful finding because it suggests that a split-visit arrangement-where part of the visit is confidential and where the parent is in the room for the part of the time-is most ideal," Gilbert stated according to Medical Xpress.

The study, "Clinical Conversations About Health: The Impact of Confidentiality in Preventive Adolescent Care," was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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