Teen guide: How to manage your own health care

Teen guide: How to manage your own health care

As a kid, you’re used to asking adults for permission to hang out with friends, get a cellphone or stay out past curfew. But if you’re a teenager between the ages of 12-17, you get to manage your health. This includes choosing how much of your health records you want your parents or guardians to see.  

Due to state and federal regulations, parents/guardians have limited online access to their 12- to 17-year-old child’s medical records. This means you can get confidential care for sensitive topics, such as contraception, unless you grant them permission to view that part of your record. It also means you can take on a more active role in managing your health – with help as needed.  

Not sure where to begin? Here are three tips to get you started.

Tip 1: Schedule a physical exam

“Even if you’re feeling fine, getting an annual physical exam is a good idea to make sure you’re staying healthy. It involves screening for common issues that may cause health problems in the future,” says Dr. Edmund Fernandez, a family medicine physician at Aurora Family Medicine in Slinger, Wis. 

Besides early disease detection, your annual checkup is also an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with your primary care provider.  

“That way if you do get sick, you’ll already be familiar with the provider treating you,” Dr. Fernandez says.  

Tip 2: Get vaccinated

During your annual exam, you may be due to get vaccinations based on your age and health history. Some common vaccinations for teens include: 

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine: The HPV vaccine can help lower your risk of genital warts and certain cancers. Ideally, you’ll get two doses of the vaccine before age 15. Teens and young adults ages 15 to 26 who never received or finished the vaccination series should get a total of three doses of the HPV vaccine.  
  • Meningococcal vaccine: Teens and young adults are at a higher risk of meningococcal disease, which can cause meningitis. The type of meningococcal vaccine you’ll need depends on your age.  
  • Flu shot: You’ll want to get your flu shot before peak flu season which is between October and February.   
  • COVID vaccine: You might be due for another dose depending on how recently you received a COVID vaccine.  
  • Tetanus booster: The vaccine is usually given as a series in early childhood with a booster at age 11 or 12. After that, you’ll need a  tetanus booster once every 10 years. 
Tip 3: Grant your parent or guardian access to your account

Your parents/guardians can get a limited view of your account, or you can grant them an expanded view.  

With a limited view, your parent/guardian can see parts of your health record including immunizations, allergies, medications (except contraceptives), all labs (except pregnancy tests, drug screens, obstetrics images and STI tests), letters and appointments (except in-person OB/GYN, behavioral health and school-based care visits). They also can message your provider.  

With an expanded view, they’ll see all of that plus sensitive topics including contraceptives, clinical notes, after visit summaries and sensitive lab results such as pregnancy tests. 

“You might want to consider giving your parent or guardian an expanded view if you’d like them to help you make decisions about your health,” says Dr. Fernandez. “Your provider can help answer your questions about account access.”  

Once you turn 18, you’ll need to give written permission for people to see your medical records, including your parents or guardians.  

Are you trying to find a doctor? Look here if you live in Illinois. Look here if you live in Wisconsin. 

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About the Author

Vicki Martinka Petersen
Vicki Martinka Petersen

Vicki Martinka Petersen, health enews contributor, is a digital copywriter on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. A former newspaper reporter, she’s worked in health care communications for the last decade. In her spare time, Vicki enjoys tackling her to be read pile, trying new recipes, meditating, and planning fun activities to do in the Chicago area with her husband and son.