Working with Youth

Considerations for confidentiality and minor consent

Read Time: 1 Min 30 Seconds

Ethical Considerations

Many adolescent may forego or delay seeking information, support, or treatment to manage high-risk behaviors and potential harms if they are concerned about privacy. This can result in poorer health outcomes for adolescents that can have long-lasting effects. Healthcare professionals can recognize and account for this barrier to care to best serve the needs of patients. 

Benefits of Confidentiality

Clearly outlining the parameters of confidentiality and mandated reporting can help establish trust, respect, and a therapeutic relationship. This will benefit the patient's ability to receive needed care, support managing sensitive healthcare, and improve health outcome. This will benefit  the healthcare provider by improving their ability to provide relevant and appropriate healthcare, demonstrating their role as a trusted resource, and creating an environment where patients feel comfortable answering questions honestly. 

Legal Considerations

Confidentiality and minor consent laws vary by state. Familiarize yourself with those relevant to your practice.

This State Minor Consent Laws Summary document is a good place to start as it provides an overview of each state's laws as of 2010. 

This Federal Privacy Protection for Substance Abus Treatment Records: Protecting Adolescents document discusses the dilemma healthcare professionals might face due to conflicts between state and federal laws as they relate to adolescent drug and alcohol treatment. 

Clinical Considerations

Staff education: All staff within a clinical setting should be aware of confidentiality procedures, including front office staff, health educators, medical assistants and nurses. Ensure that record keeping, insurance billing, and conversations maintain adolescent patient confidentiality. 

Patient & Family education: Discussing confidentiality and mandated reporting requirements with adolescent patients and their caregivers should be done at their first visit. Advertising your confidentiality policy can be done via waiting room and pamphlets to serve as reminders to patients and families.

This resource includes important confidentiality information specific to California with applicability to other states.

Page 16 covers tips for discussing conditional confidentiality with adolescent patients. 

Pages 13-15 provides a self-assessment and recommendations to make your office confidentiality conscious.