When Privacy Isn't So Good

I've mentioned Becky's cyst already; you know, the one that cleared up. Thankfully we have the Vicodin left from the aftermath because guess what's back? Yep.

So I scheduled an appointment for later this week just so the Gynie office can have record that it's happening again, and keep a professional eye on things. I am not happy that it's back so soon. Our last clear thought on this was that we were hoping this wouldn't happen again for a few years at the earliest. Two months later isn't even close. It appears that Becky has fallen into the 30% of women who will have this as a lifelong problem. The poor, poor kid.

Because she IS a kid. She's 14. I've been making her appointments for her, taking her in to the office, sitting with her through the visits, and talking to the doctor about all the possible scenarios, results and outcomes. In short, I've been highly involved in the care of my daughter, who is a minor.

That's why it irked me more than a little when the office called today to reschedule an appointment we had set up for January as a follow-up from the last time we were there. The call went something like this.

Ring, ring, RING.

Husband: Hello?

Office: Hi. Is Becky there?

Husband: No, she's not. Can I take a message.

Office: This is her doctor's office calling. Could you have her call back at this number?

Husband: Would you like to talk to her mother? (And then proceeding to hand over the phone.)

Me: Hello?

Office: This is Becky's doctor calling in regards to an appointment. Could you have her call us?

Me: She's my daughter, could I help with something?

Office: We need to reschedule. Just have her call.

Me: I'm her mother. I make all her appointments.

Office: Oh. (Sounding rather unsure about going on.) Well, she has an appointment in January that we need to reschedule. (Insert pause while she waits for me to just offer to have Becky call.)

Me: We'll be in later this week. I'll just reschedule then.

Office: Oh! Okay! That will work. (Clearly relieved that she didn't have to reschedule with the mother over the phone.)

Am I the only one who's completely bent out of shape over this? I mean, I understand about patient privacy and all that. I understand that there are teen girls out there doing things that their parents are unaware of. I understand that the gyno office could think they're doing girls a favor by preventing unwanted babies while keeping the parents in the dark about what's really going on.

And while I understand all that, I don't have to agree with it.

Plus, read the chart! My daughter is not in there scoring birth control behind her parents' back. If you'll consult the records, my 14 year old daughter is there for a painful cyst that you prescribed hefty-duty meds for. And if you think for one minute that keeping the parents in the dark about kids taking drugs like Vicodin is in any way, shape, or form a good thing, you've got another thought coming.

I'll be taking my daughter to the Lady Doc this week. And I'll be sure to give them a piece of my mind on their privacy policies. Before I make a complete idiot of myself, does anyone think I may be blowing this way out of proportion? Anyone?


ClumberKim said...

The first time you took her there you had to sign a HIPAA form regarding privacy. I know I just sign 'em but my kids are a younger. I'd want to look that over again in more detail and ask some questions.

BeautifulWreck said...

Omy... I am not sure what to say. As a mother, I am sitting there on the couch with you. As the daughter of a mother who didn't allow me privacy, and butted in at Ob/Gyn appointments and refused me birthcontrol, I feel differently. But fourteen...It seems to me this is when common sense should come into play. You have taken your daughter to all of her appointments, you have overseen her care so asking you about her appointments being her parents seems acceptable to me. Unfortunately common sense has totally left us in this society.

Annette said...

Funny, at our local children's hospital, there is a line for "parent signature"...and a line for child's name. At what point do they get to sign their own name? Scary.

I think you definitely need to voice your concern...and find out more about the HIPPA policy.

I still need to read about Becky's last cyst. No fun!

Karen said...

Kim - good idea. I may have to read the fine print and possibly revoke that form from the files.

Chelsie said...

What happened to common sense? Clearly at 14 she isn't driving to the appointments, why would they have her reschedule the appointment? What if you didn't know when the new on was and she missed it?

Brandie said...

I'm behind you 100%! You brought up a good point about the pain meds, too. What if, someone's daughter sold those at school, the parents would be dealing with the fall out not the dr's office. I think these privacy policies undermine our role as parents.

Molly said...

Hmmm. My understanding is that a patient cannot sign for themselves until they are 18. At the same time, if becky WAS trying to get the pill behind your back, it would come up in insurance and whatnot, so how would she sneak that past you? I get a doctor not wanting to breach doctor patient confidentiality, because if kids feel like their doctors will rat them out they won't tell and that'll have a negative impact on their health. But this was making an appointment? My mom makes appointments for me all the time and I'm 21!

Bottom line if you didnt know what was going on she wouldn't be using your insurance/your doctor! Plus, it's an appointment, not like you're trying to get info out of them. I had to sign forms for my doctors to speak with my parents, since I'm over 18.

Bluepaintred said...

WOW. just WOW

in no way are you bent out of shape over this. give them a very strong piece of your mind.

Aimee said...

I don't think you're bent out of shape over this, but unfortunately Becky is considered "old enough" to take care of her gyn needs as an adult, at least in the eyes of our great Commonwealth. I know it seems ridiculous, but docs in PA can start seeing kids/asking parents to "step out" of exams as young as 11 or 12. And the questions they ask are not "so, how's it going?" They are questions about sexual activity, drugs, birth control, and feelings of suicide.

I understand that docs have to walk a fine line in the sense that some of these kids really are at risk from their parents (who are neglectful at best) and their environments -- Rob has delivered enough babies with 13 year old moms to learn that.

However, and this is what I see as the important distinction that needs to be made -- there is a problem when "privacy laws" are set up and administered in such a way that they automatically assume that the child needs protection from neglectful parents. It's the across-the-board application that is a problem, as it usurps a truly loving parent's rights to care and KNOW about the care provided to their minor children.

That's obviously your situation with Becky -- anyone with a few brain cells could look at her chart and your care of her and see the real deal. I think you are completely right to speak to the doctor about this, and what you expect will be the procedure with future appts.

And if the doc's in doubt -- tell her to ask Becky! If she's considered adult enough to change her appts, then her wishes can be respected as far as having her mother arrange them and be with her. She's a kid in pain, and as another commenter pointed out -- she doesn't drive! Of course she still needs her mother's help.

Viv said...

I'll give a scenario from my own life. When pregnant with our first child, my husband and I went on vacation to Disney. While there, my mother called sobbing about how I had to get to a doctor "right away," because I was going to "DIE!!!!!!!!" The doctor's office had called the old phone number on file for me, which of course was my parents' number. When they left an "important" message for me, my mother pulled the "mom" card and got them to give her the information sans HIPPA authorization, and had me rush to a local hospital where they damn near died laughing when all the puzzle pieces came back together. I'm Rh- and just needed a shot of Rhogam...at my earliest convenience.

In short, all moms aren't like you. Unfortunately, the legal fallout from what I described above, had I chosen to sue, is what makes the Dr uneasy about talking to you. Sad, but, true.

mommaof4wife2r said...

crazy!!! when i was on bed rest with sofia and unable to do anything with stress, the stupid insurance company wouldn't talk to ryan...yea, that's never stressful and raising the bp even higher! stupid. it's all just stupid!

mommaof4wife2r said...

oh, after all that, prayers for becky and that whole cyst thingy.

utmomof 5 said...

I am like you...I understand it but don't agree with it. I bet if you go in and have them put something in her chart about contacting you is just hunky dorey I bet they wouldn't mind. Good luck with the cyst, I hope it clears up!!

Nap Warden said...

That is crazy...I'm totally in your camp on this one. I get it...but it's crazy!

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one . . . in this 'day and age' I think that involved parents who take an active role in their teens lives are in the minority. For every 'Becky' that the OB/GYN office sees, there are probably 5 girls who are there behind their parents' backs - and it is up to the receptionists to figure out who is who. I understand creating laws and policies to protect those who are seeking care (regardless of their age), but agree that it creates some difficult situations. I have to agree with whomever suggested having the clinic put a note in Becky's chart stating that it is okay to contact and talk to you (I know such a note exists in each of my kiddo's records - the note also authorizes the office to leave messages on our phone or to contact my husband in an emergency.)

Good luck and I hope that Becky is feeling better soon! (Have they said anything about the posibility of this being a precursor to PCOS? If so, there are dietary measures that she could take to help limit the development of cysts.)

Roger said...

It's already been mentioned, but if you signed the HIPAA form, I think it states that she is entitled to privacy, or something like that. The law was intended to protect adults, I believe, but DR.s offices are taking it to an extreme to keep from getting sued. Which is the real problem with healthcare in this country, if I can add that little political tangent there.

It gets better, wait until they start college and you are told that, even though you are footing the bill, you have no rights to know anything unless the student (your child) allows it.

Anyway, I hope that Becky isn't in that 30%, and that this is just a minor blip in her healthcare.

caramama said...

So sorry the cyst is back! That just sucks, and I hope it clears up soon!

Others have said it better than I could. I understand the policy because not all moms are like you, but I'll bet the office could put a note in her file saying that it's okay to schedule with you.

MoonNStarMommy said...

Oh no I'm so sorry that the cyst is back. I know I have one right now too and it's hurting to the point where I'd like to rip out my own ovary.

As for the parent/child issue, they (the office) needs to get their ducks in a row. That's just a stupid thing to do when the child is under age. And if they think they are protecting her in some way - they already let the cat out of the bag by saying "this is the DRs office" .. I mean if you didn't already know the whys ... wouldn't it have you wondering to a point where you'd sit down and have a conversation???? Seriously!