Teen Health Services and One-On-One Time with A Healthcare Provider: An Infobrief for Parents

Parents can help create that trusting relationship by allowing their teen one-on-one time with their healthcare provider.

A Female nurse talking with a female student in clinic

The teen years are an important time of growth and development. Teens need regular medical care to ensure they receive recommended health services that help keep them safe and healthy. Having a healthcare provider (e.g., a doctor or nurse practitioner) they trust and can talk to is important, particularly when it comes to topics such as mental and sexual health, substance use, and safety from bullying. Parents can help create that trusting relationship by allowing their teen one-on-one time with their healthcare provider.

Why is one-on-one time with a healthcare provider important?

As adolescents develop and take greater responsibility for their lives, it makes sense for them to be more engaged in their own health care. Current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that providers begin having one-on-one time, commonly referred to as “time alone”, with young people as early as age 11.1

Providers who spend one-on-one time with teens early on help establish this practice as a routine part of care, and provide teens with regular opportunities to raise any concerns in an open manner.2 Ensuring teens have a chance to discuss sensitive issues, such as relationship concerns or depression, can increase their satisfaction with medical care and receipt of preventive health services.3,4 A recent report from AAP encourages providers to have one-on-one time with teens in order to provide accurate and comprehensive sex education, including personalized information on risks and prevention strategies.5

Do teens get one-on-one time with healthcare providers?

Research suggests that not enough teens get one-on-one with their providers. One study found that only 38% of teens 15-17 years old had one-on-one time with a provider during a clinic visit in the prior year.6 Another study found that out of 144 medical visits attended by a parent, just 68% involved time alone between the provider and teen.3

What parents can do:

  1. Hagan JF, Shaw JS, Duncan PM, eds. 2008. Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents. Third Edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
  2. Ford C, English A, Sigman G. Confidential Health Care for Adolescents: position paper for the society for adolescent medicine. J Adolesc Health 2004; 35(2): 160-7.
  3. O’Sullivan LF, McKee MD, Rubin SE, Campos G. Primary care providers’ reports of time alone and the provision of sexual health services to urban adolescent patients: results of a prospective card study. J Adolesc Health 2010; 47(1): 110-2.
  4. Brown JD, Wissow LS. Discussion of sensitive health topics with youth during primary care visits: relationship to youth perceptions of care. J Adolesc Health 2009; 44(1): 48-54.
  5. Breuner CC, Mattson G, Committee On Adolescence, Committee On Psychosocial Aspects Of Child and Family Health. Sexuality Education for Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics 2016; 138(2).
  6. Copen CE, Dittus PJ, Leichliter JS. Confidentiality concerns and sexual and reproductive health care among adolescents and young adults aged 15-25. NCHS Data Brief 2016; (266): 1-8.