Education

University of Iowa hospitals reviewing parent-child records access

'We plan to share the revised practice within a matter of months'

University of Iowa Health Care complex, which houses University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, is seen in this photo taken on Friday, April 18, 2014, in Iowa City, Iowa. (The Gazette)
University of Iowa Health Care complex, which houses University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, is seen in this photo taken on Friday, April 18, 2014, in Iowa City, Iowa. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — University of Iowa Health Care administrators are reviewing their nearly decade-old practice of restricting parental access to adolescent medical records after talking with other health systems, patients and families.

“That review is not finished yet, but we plan to share the revised practice within a matter of months,” UIHC spokesman Tom Moore told The Gazette.

Current UIHC practice allows parents or guardians access their child’s medical record via the university’s electronic MyChart tool until he or she turns 12. At that time, parents or guardians lose most access to their child’s medical record — retaining limited MyChart use to view immunization records, for example, or send and receive basic messages.

Parents near their child’s 12th birthday receive a notice reminding them of the change and the reasoning behind it.

“We believe that children at this age should take a more active role in their own health care and have a choice to keep some information private,” according to the parent message.

The university’s policy curtailing parental access at age 12 began in 2010, when the hospital system first began offering MyChart access. It aligns with state laws granting health care privacy to adolescents, according to Moore, who said UI follows the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation about protecting adolescent patient confidentiality.

“University of Iowa Health Care takes very seriously ensuring that adolescents feel that they are able to have private conversations with their physicians and other health care providers, especially those who seek certain sensitive services or types of care, such as substance abuse counseling, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, etc.,” Moore said.

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Still, he said, administrators acknowledge some children have chronic conditions or long-term illnesses necessitating parents or guardians’ full MyChart access “in order to help manage their care.”

“Tools like MyChart have made it easier for parents and legal guardians to manage their children’s health care, especially those who have chronic diseases or long-term illness, such as cystic fibrosis or transplant recipients,” he said.

In the battle to balance adolescent privacy with parental needs, while following state and federal laws in an attempt to prioritize health and safety, UIHC acknowledges its unique role in the state caring for the highest-need patients.

“As Iowa’s only nationally ranked children’s hospital, we see a large number of these patients with chronic diseases that may make it more important for their parents or guardians to have full access to MyChart than many of our peer institutions,” Moore said.

The university’s review is tentatively scheduled to wrap in the next several months.

The UI’s existing practice includes a caveat for children with a mental condition or disability, and it cites options for children over 12 who want to create their own MyChart accounts.

Moore noted UIHC is among other hospitals across the country weighing these issues.

Sarah Corizzo, marketing communications lead for UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital, told The Gazette her institution also recognizes the “sensitivity surrounding parents’ limited access to some protected health information for their minor children.”

In this state, she said, minors have the right to receive certain services without parental consent.

“Therefore, health care providers are legally required to restrict parental access to medical information related to those services,” she said. “At UnityPoint Health, this is effective for minor children between the ages of 12 and 17.”

As with at UIHC, St. Luke’s parents through an online portal can access appointments, test results, immunizations, medications and messages for children under 12. From 12 to 17, parents and guardians only can schedule appointments and view immunization records through the portal.

ISSUES ON WHICH A MINOR MAY CONSENT

• Testing for sexually transmitted diseases, contraceptive services (Iowa Code 141A.7)

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• Prevention, screening or treatment for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (Iowa Code 139A.35 and 141.7)

• Sexual abuse or assault victim medical and mental health-related services (Iowa Code 915.35(1)-(3)

• Blood donation (Iowa Code 599.6)

• Substance use disorder treatment (Iowa Code 125.33(1))

• Tobacco cessation services (Iowa Code 142A.11)

• Organ donation (Iowa Code 142C)

The consent list related to adolescents can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2RdmYCh

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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