Adolescents' Needs for Health Care Privacy

A study of adolescents' privacy preferences in a health care setting found that adolescents value psychological, social, physical and informational privacy (confidentiality), and recommended that providers consider all aspects of privacy when caring for adolescents.

The authors of the study aimed to understand adolescents' preferences for the four aspects of privacy in health care: psychological, social, physical and informational. They conducted focus groups with 54 adolescents aged 11 to 19, with and without chronic conditions, grouped by age, gender and health status.

Informational privacy was imperative for the participants. Older participants were concerned about sharing information with parents, while younger participants were more concerned about sharing information with people other than parents (like providers). Psychological, social and physical were also important: respectively, adolescents were wary of revealing information that might lead providers to judge them, avoided personal discussions with new or multiple providers, especially about issues perceived as irrelevant to their health care, and considered their physical safety during exams, preferring to be examined by female providers.

Providers should address all types of privacy with their adolescent patients and particularly ensure that adolescents understand information-sharing practices. Future research is necessary based on factors not addressed in this study, including adolescents' race and sexuality.