Treating the Awkward Years

Great, great _Times_ article about adolescent health care and how the current medical system fails at treating teenagers. There is pediatric care, geriatric care, and normal adult care, but very little specialization in adolescent care, which has a whole different set of challenges.

The biggest problem, and one I can empathize with completely, is that doctors don’t know how to talk to adolescents. They need to get the parents out of the room, they need to talk about life and lifestyle, family situation, school, behaviors, and give productive, medically-based suggestions that are non-judgemental. They need to treat teenagers like adults and give them the information they need. They need to listen actively to problems and work together to come up with solutions. They need to recognize that adolescene is utterly awkward, that everyone is different, and that we each think our problems are unique and life-defining.

To this day I don’t really know how the medical system is supposed to work for me — who do I call if I have a problem, how much information should I be giving the people at the front desk, how private is it? What does the doctor report about me, what goes in various files, what sorts of things do I need to talk about to make sure I get a good standard of care. Should I ask for more tests? Question why I’m getting them? How do I choose my primary care doctor?

Teenagers need to learn how to become good medical consumers, need to learn about how to make the system work for them, need to know that doctors will be there when they need them. In turn, insurance companies need to provide incentives for adolescent care to be thorough and complete, and for more doctors to become specialized in the field.