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Variability in adolescent portal privacy features: how the unique privacy needs of the adolescent patient create a complex decision-making process.

TitleVariability in adolescent portal privacy features: how the unique privacy needs of the adolescent patient create a complex decision-making process.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsSharko M, Wilcox L, Hong MK, Ancker JS
JournalJ Am Med Inform Assoc
Date Published2018 Aug 01

Objective: Medical privacy policies, which are clear-cut for adults and young children, become ambiguous during adolescence. Yet medical organizations must establish unambiguous rules about patient and parental access to electronic patient portals. We conducted a national interview study to characterize the diversity in adolescent portal policies across a range of institutions and determine the factors influencing decisions about these policies.

Methods: Within a sampling framework that ensured diversity of geography and medical organization type, we used purposive and snowball sampling to identify key informants. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed with inductive thematic analysis, followed by a member check.

Results: We interviewed informants from 25 medical organizations. Policies established different degrees of adolescent access (from none to partial to complete), access ages (from 10 to 18 years), degrees of parental access, and types of information considered sensitive. Federal and state law did not dominate policy decisions. Other factors in the decision process were: technology capabilities; differing patient population needs; resources; community expectations; balance between information access and privacy; balance between promoting autonomy and promoting family shared decision-making; and tension between teen privacy and parental preferences. Some informants believed that clearer standards would simplify policy-making; others worried that standards could restrict high-quality polices.

Conclusions: In the absence of universally accepted standards, medical organizations typically undergo an arduous decision-making process to develop teen portal policies, weighing legal, economic, social, clinical, and technological factors. As a result, portal access policies are highly inconsistent across the United States and within individual states.

Alternate JournalJ Am Med Inform Assoc
PubMed ID29788423
Faculty Publication Student Publication