Challenges to Adolescent Confidentiality in a Children's Hospital

Hina J. Talib, Ellen J. Silver, Elizabeth M. Alderman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: Protecting confidentiality for hospitalized adolescents can be challenging and may interfere with optimal adolescent-friendly care. The goal of this study was to explore physician trainees' experience with adolescent confidentiality at an academic children's hospital.

METHODS: A total of 175 trainees were invited to complete an online survey about knowledge, attitudes, and experiences with confidential adolescent concerns in the inpatient setting. A total of 133 (76%) responded: 78% female; 65% pediatric or family medicine residents; and 35% medical students.

RESULTS: In the past year, 56 (42%) of 133 trainees cared for a hospitalized adolescent whose confidentiality had been breached. Barriers to ensuring confidentiality included: patient/family not knowledgeable about minor consent law (50%); trainees not knowledgeable about minor consent law (47%); and hospital discharge summary requiring parental signature (47%). On patient- and family-centered rounds (PFCR), respondents reported that minor adolescents (aged <18 years) compared with young adults (aged ≥18 years) were more likely to have social history discussed away from the bedside (91% vs 84%; P < .001) and less likely to have confidential time with the medical team (28% vs 47%; P < .001). Barriers to participation in PFCR included the following: patient was sleeping (61%), patient declined to participate (51%), and confidentiality concerns (32%).

CONCLUSIONS: Breaches in confidentiality for hospitalized adolescents are a common trainee experience. On PFCR, adolescents are less likely to have confidential time with the medical team than young adults. In trainees' experience, hospital systems such as PFCR and discharge procedures pose inherent challenges to confidentiality for minor adolescent patients, as do lack of knowledge of minor consent laws by both clinicians and families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-495
Number of pages6
JournalHospital Pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pediatrics


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