Study: High-risk teens open to online health records

High-risk teens could benefit from online records and the ability to share their health information, according to a study published at Pediatrics.

Teens in a California juvenile detention center were overwhelmingly interested in being able to access their health records online, according to research that surprised Stanford researchers.

The teens tended to engage in high-risk behaviors, and the researchers assumed they would pay little heed to their health. The subjects often had no adult keeping a record of immunizations and other medical conditions, including sexually transmitted infections, mental illnesses and substance abuse. This could pose problems for them, even into adulthood, according to senior author Arash Anoshiravani, who pointed out that such teens generally are not considered in the discussion of how to better engage patients in their health.

"They may turn 18 and not know they were born with a heart defect that was surgically repaired," Anoshiravani said.

At the same time, medical providers often have little medical history to go on when treating such troubled adolescents.

In the study, 79 teens between the ages of 13 and 18 were interviewed about their Internet use and interest in online medical records. Of those, 97 percent reported using the Internet at least once a month, and 87 percent at least weekly when not in detention, where access is prohibited, according to an announcement. Ninety percent expressed interest in accessing their health records online and sharing them with either parents or physicians.

That also surprised researchers, though while the vast majority were willing to share their records with physicians, only half were willing to share them with parents. Since the law allows parents to see some parts of adolescent medical records, it's difficult to set up online records in accord with teens' privacy preferences.

Anoshiravani pointed out that these teens are generally not considered in the discussion of how to better engage patients in their health.

The high-risk teens' use of the Internet was similar to that of the general adolescent population, so it would seem that efforts to engage them could be similar to other teen initiatives such as through apps and games.

However, patient confidentiality remains an issue for communicating with young patients among the general teen population as well.

To learn more:
- read the abstract
- here's the announcement

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