Rights! Rights! Rights! You got em’
Whether you go to the emergency room for a broken foot or are visiting your doctor for a regularly scheduled check-in, there are certain healthcare rights that every teenager has and should receive. Doctors are supposed to tell teenagers about the rights they have before each visit, although many tend to skip over this step. First and foremost, you have the right to one on one time with a doctor. The doctor should ask whoever you bring into the exam room with you to leave at some point in the visit so you can have confidential talks.
Consent is extremely important in many aspects of our lives. In the healthcare field, practitioners (doctors and nurses) need to have permission in order to provide treatments or care. In the case of minors, parents have to give consent for things as simple as the flu vaccine, to bigger things like stitches. A slight caveat to this is that minors can consent to family planning services. This includes STI tests and treatments, pregnancy-related care, and even starting birth control. In relation to pregnancy, a teenager can consent to prenatal services and childbirth services, but if they want an epidural, a parent must consent to that.
Confidential is a word that many are unfamiliar with, especially when it comes to health care treatment. Confidentiality, in short, means privacy. This means that by law, health care providers are required to keep health and personal information private, including what you talk about during a visit, diagnosis, and treatments. This in short is due to HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The only exception to this is when providers have to report certain information because they are mandated reporters. Unlike our teachers, health care providers don't have to report drug usage or other “risky” behavior. They do however have to report if they believe you're being physically harmed, you're going to harm yourself, or if you have thoughts of harming someone else. If you're unaware if something you say may be reported, ask your provider what topics they report on.
No matter how great your provider is, sometimes confidentiality can be broken. Insurers send an EOB, or explanation of benefits to the address of the person who pays for the health insurance. An EOB may list tests that a doctor ordered. If a doctor orders a pee test to test for an STI, that can show up on an EOB, then left to parents’ interpretation of what that means. If you've had your provider for many years your parents’ contact information is what offices have on file is. You wouldn't necessarily want STI test results to go to them, so make sure to give the doctor and receptionist your number so they call you. Many facilities are good about this and also set a “code-word” so that they know if it really is you answering the phone. Until you are 18, parents can request to see your entire printed medical record. Although the process is lengthy, it can be done. Some providers are starting to code medical records for symptoms instead of diagnosis. When in doubt, if you're worried about this, talk to your doctor to find a solution. MyChart is also a great tool for communication and checking basic medical history. When you're under 18, you are not allowed to have your own account and parents have access to your information. If there's ever any worry about confidentiality being broken in relation to family planning services, go hit up your local Planned Parenthood or the Eastside Public health clinic. If you’re worried about payment don't be! “FPOS! I've recommended so many people to FPOS, (family planning only services insurance). Basically, every teen that walks into planned parenthood is recommended to sign up for it, since it goes off our individual wage, and let’s be real, teens don't make that much money, it’s free. It's a federally funded insurance program that covers all family planning services,” a student from Memorial High School in the PATCH program, Zoe Crooks (12) said.
The PATCH program stands for Providers And Teens Communicating for Health, and it is a group of 13 Dane County high school students who could recite these rights in their sleep. They give presentations to teenagers about their health care rights, and even to doctors to tell them how to make their practices better. For more information on the program or your rights visit wipatch.org.
Make sure you get alone time with your doctor, when in doubt go to Planned Parenthood, and stick up for yourself. After all, knowing your rights will only benefit you.