Helping teens manage their own health needs

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Older teens and college students are busy with school, extracurriculars, and social demands. Sometimes, it’s tempting to just take care of their healthcare needs for them. Sure, it’s easier now, but at some point, they’ll need to manage their own health care. Adulting 101.

If you’re like me, you might still remind your teens to do the basics like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and taking vitamins. You might still be the one to make sure they are up-to-date on their immunizations and get regular dental exams. But teens start dealing with some new situations, so it’s time for them to start taking over the staying-healthy basics. 

Parents can prepare their younger teens to expect to spend part of the time speaking privately to the doctor. In fact, I was asked to step out of the exam room so the doctor could speak with my kid. Teens should be taught to talk openly about any concerns they have and listen to the doctor’s advice. If your kids are able to drive or bus, they can start scheduling appointments or getting to their preventive visits on their own. 

Associate Medical Director Dr. Neil Kaneshiro encourages parents to prepare teens to ask questions about their own health to help them take a more active role in their care. "Empower them by saying 'this is your visit, you can and need to ask questions that are relevant to you." 

This portion of the doctor visit is intended to give adolescents an opportunity to talk about issues pertinent to their healthcare that they might not want their parents to know, such as mental or reproductive health concerns. Dr. Kaneshiro encourages his patients and parents to work together, but after a certain age teens do have the legal right to make their own decisions about their healthcare. "But it works much better if the family is involved." 

Feeling good physically and mentally

Today’s high school college students can be under a lot of pressure. Anxiety, depression, and substance abuse are fairly common, and can lead to physical symptoms if left untreated. Make sure your student knows where to get qualified mental health if they need it. Often help is available through school or through their primary care physician. 

Privacy concerns are very real for this age group. Washington state law protects the health privacy of children beginning at age 13. We won’t share information about mental, sexual, or reproductive health of children 13 or older, without their written consent, so encourage your older teens to get care for sensitive issues like birth control or mental health. Premera won’t share the specifics of these types of claims without your teen’s permission.

With the Premera app, their health plan info is as close as their phone

The Premera mobile app is a great way to get teens and young adults to get familiar with their health plan. They’ll always have their digital ID card with them right on their phone, even if they’re away at school. It’s reassuring to know that they’ll have it if they need to see a doctor or pick up a prescription.

College students will need to figure out if they want a doctor near the university or if they will get checkups at home over breaks. All teens will need to move on from the pediatrician eventually. They may not be aware that there are naturopaths and other alternative care providers out there. It’s easy to use the Find Care section of the mobile app to find an in-network provider.

Plan for the unexpected
Your teens may think they’re invincible. They never expect to get the flu or twist their ankle. But it’s best to be prepared. Not sure where to go? Premera plans offer a 24-Hour NurseLine your teen can call to help determine the best course of action. (This number is shown on the back of their digital ID card.) If they’re away at college, make sure your teen knows where the nearest in-network urgent care or emergency room is in case they need it. It’s also an opportunity to teach kids about the costs of care and other options, such as the university health center or retail clinics.


Talking Teen Health

Laurie and Dr. Neil Kaneshiro share their experience with teens’ healthcare on New Day Northwest. 



Teladoc® is another option available on most health plans. The mobile app provides an easy way to access Teladoc for round-the-clock phone or video visits with a board-certified doctor. This is a convenient and inexpensive solution, especially for students who are away from home. Have your teen set up an account before leaving for school, so it’s ready to go when they need it.

With a little bit of coaching, your teens will be ready to start taking on more of the responsibility for their own health needs.

Laurie Pritchard is a content strategist at Premera and is raising two teens to be smart about their health. She still sneaks vegetables into their dinners.

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