Law to parents: No, you cannot have full access to your child's medical records

Law to parents: No, you cannot have full access to your child's medical records

I took my tween to the doctor for her annual check up last week. I was surprised to learn on this visit that parents of older tweens have limited access to medical records for their tweens.

“State and Federal law restricts parental access to certain medical information for minors age 12-17.”

The form states that, if you are the parent of a child between ages 12 and 17, “You will be granted partial access to your child’s record. (e.g., appointment scheduling, immunizations).” Parents of kids 11 and younger, are permitted full access to their child’s medical records.

I was surprised.

I hadn’t really thought my tween’s cravings for independence and autonomy extending to the medical realm. I knew about HIPAA, but presumed that it didn’t apply to minors. I was wrong.

The HHS website that addresses frequently asked questions about HIPAA, a federal law, explains that a parent is general a child’s “personal representative,” which means access to records, but if a state law provides otherwise, the state law governs. If the state law is silent, “the licensed health care provider may exercise his or her professional judgment to the extent allowed by law to grant or deny parental access to the minor’s medical information.”

In addition, a medical provider may choose not to treat a parent as a personal representative when the provider reasonably believes, in his or her professional judgment, that the child has been or may be subjected to domestic violence, abuse or neglect, or that treating the parent as the child’s personal representative could endanger the child.

According to the Guttmacher Institute’s publication The HIPAA Privacy Rule and Adolescents: Legal Questions and Clinical Challenges, “Every state has laws that allow minors to give their own consent for some kinds of health care—including emergency, general health, contraceptive, pregnancy-related, HIV or other STD, substance abuse and mental health care.”

That same publication explains the many reasons why that is the case, including that “[p]rivacy concerns also influence where adolescents go for health care, can deter them from communicating openly with providers, and can make them reluctant to accept services . . .”

Apparently, my medical provider is interpreting the law in Illinois to mean that parents do not have access to records for kids 12 and older. I’m still researching this, but as the University of Chicago HIPAA Office explains here, “the reasonable presumption is that the minor in all the situations except the emergency exception has an controls the access to his/her medical information for that condition or situation.”

The law states that she cannot drive, vote or drink alcohol and that I am legally responsible for her. I understand the privacy concerns, but I also have concerns about my child’s well-being and my knowledge of it.

How do you feel about laws limiting parental access to a minor’s medical records? Does it encourage kids to seek the treatment they need? Or does it limit how parents can help and parent?

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