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At-Risk Teens Interested in Obtaining Health Information, Study Finds

October 22, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, at-risk teenagers are interested in obtaining and viewing their online health information. Researchers from the study, which was published in a recent issue of Pediatrics, spoke with 79 incarcerated teens who received treatment at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and 90 percent were enthusiastic about receiving their health information online.

The researchers, led by adolescent medicine specialist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and senior author, Arash Anoshirvani, M.D, say that troubled teens could benefit from online health information because they “generally have worse health than other adolescents — and no one keeping track of the health care they do receive.” Furthermore, they have a variety of tough circumstances such as constantly moving and difficult relationships with their parents, both of which are not helping doctors know their medical history.

“These young people are marginalized, considered delinquent,” Anoshirvani said in a statement. “They’re often not considered when it comes to new ways of engaging patients.”

On the 90 percent interest in receiving health information online, Anoshiravani said, “I didn’t expect this level of interest because they don’t typically think of health as something that’s part of their daily lives.” In addition, the researchers were surprised to find that the teenagers said they would also share online health records:

According to this press release, Anoshiravani now wants to implement and test online health records for at-risk teens. He says, the biggest challenge will revolve around the issue of information-sharing. “It’s very difficult right now to meet the spirit and letter of the law around confidential health information in the areas of reproductive and mental health for adolescent patients,” Anoshiravani said. As electronic medical records evolve to include customized privacy settings, it will be easier to meet teens’ confidentiality needs, he said.

Christopher Longhurst, M.D., clinical associate professor of pediatrics, and chief medical information officer at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford, Calif., worked with the authors of the report on this effort.

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