Teen Health in Northampton and Amherst
Supporting Teen Privacy
Adolescent visits to the doctor are much different than examinations for younger children. We respect that teens often have a special need for privacy and may have health questions that they would like to discuss alone. Therefore, during adolescent physicals (age thirteen years and older), we like to provide teens with the opportunity to meet with the doctor without their parent present. As health care providers, we are ethically bound to keep information private as requested by our teenage patients. There are limitations to this privacy, however. If we are ever worried for the immediate health and safety of any teenager, we will notify their parent or guardian.
Once a teenager turns 18 years old, he or she is now legally an adult and we are bound by law to keep all medical encounters confidential. We still encourage openness between parents and children and ask that adult patients of ours complete a “release of medical information” form so that we can continue to share information, in a limited way, with parents.
The Teen Annual Physical
During the annual physical, a parent will usually accompany a teen to the exam room to meet with the provider for the initial part of the visit. This is the time when parents may ask any questions of special concern about their teen’s health. Parents then return to the waiting room while the teen finishes their discussion and physical examination with the provider. This period of time is very important for teenagers, as young adults, to learn to communicate independently about health concerns with the doctor or nurse practitioner.
All the primary care providers in Northampton Area Pediatrics support and encourage open communication between teenagers and their parents. A parent knows their child better than anyone else, and will set the guiding rules and principles on their path to adulthood. But we also view ourselves as having a role in educating and helping teens make healthy choices for themselves. Topics covered in teen visits include interests and activities, home life, school performance, dating, sex and sexuality (including abstinence and safer sex, and/or concerns around gender), substance use or experimentation, and issues around stress, moods or anxiety. These topics are discussed universally, and we make no pre-judgments about a particular teen’s involvement (or not) with any of the above.
We also universally perform Chlamydia testing on teenage girls beginning at age 15 years. Screening is recommended by the CDC in all sexually active teen girls and young women. The test is performed on a urine sample that is sent to the labs. Screening is recommended since females with Chlamydia often have no symptoms of infection. Teenage boys are tested as needed based upon symptoms.
We encourage all parents to have ongoing discussions of the above topics with their teenage children. It may feel uncomfortable, but gets easier with time, and the communication is appreciated.
Adult Transition Policy
Northampton Area Pediatrics is committed to helping our patients make a smooth transition from pediatric to adult health care. This process involves working with youth and their families, beginning at age 13, to prepare for the change from a pediatric model of care where parents make most decisions to an adult model of care where youth take full responsibility for decision-making.
We expect that youth will transition themselves to an adult primary care provider sometime between the ages of 18 and 22. NAP provides annual physicals for young adults up to and through the age of 22. Most adult primary care physicians require their first appointment to be an annual physical. Therefore, after age 22 patients can continue to see their pediatrician at NAP for medication recheck and acute sick visits, but will have time to complete the transition process in time for the 23 year annual physical to be performed by the new adult PCP.
NAP will assist with this transition process by helping to identify local adult providers, transferring medical records, and communicating with your chosen adult primary care provider about your unique needs.
If you have any questions or need assistance with the process of transitioning to an adult primary care provider, please contact one of our Medical Home Care Coordinators by calling our office at 584-8700, option 6.
When you turn 18, state and federal law considers you a legal adult.
What does that mean for your healthcare? It means that you’ll be responsible for all decisions about your healthcare, including your treatment.
If you would like your providers at Northampton Area Pediatrics to be able to continue to communicate with your parent(s) or other family members past your 18th birthday, you will need to sign and complete the top half of the attached form giving permission for us to do so.
Signing this form is voluntary, and can be revoked or modified at any time. Even if you do allow us to communicate with someone else, we will always make an effort to contact you first, unless the situation is urgent. You can choose how much or how little we are able to discuss with your family members.
On your 18th birthday, portal access will be deactivated for your parents.
Information related to testing for sexually transmitted infections and/or mental health treatment will NEVER be released to your family, even if you sign this form. That is information only you can share with your family directly.
If you choose not to allow us the ability to speak to your parent(s) or other family members, please always make sure we have your current phone number on file so we can easily reach you at any time. Sign and complete the bottom section of the attached form stating you do NOT grant us permission to communicate with anyone other than you.
It is very important that you talk with your parents about what you decide they can or cannot discuss with us. This way they will know what information you have given them access to and will eliminate any confusion as to why we may not be able to discuss parts of your healthcare with them.