Most online health-related activities are the opposite of useful: repeatedly Googling "what does it feel like to have an impacted wisdom tooth?" over and over again instead of going to the dentist, for instance, or looking at WebMD ever.

But a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center found that at-risk teenagers who have worse health than other adolescents and rarely have anyone keeping track of their doctor's visits could really benefit from online health records.

According to EurekaAlert:

Teens who get in trouble with the law could particularly benefit from online health records because they generally have worse health than other adolescents - and no one keeping track of the health care they do receive. These teens' health problems range from spotty immunization histories to chronic diseases such as asthma, sexually transmitted infections, mental illnesses and substance abuse. And not only do poverty, difficult relationships with their parents and frequent moves make it hard for them to get consistent health care, these problems also increase the chances that doctors who are treating them will not have access to their medical histories.

Some providers are skeptical that delinquent teens, not commonly known for being particularly responsible or caring all that much about their health, will be interested in checking out their dental records and vaccine history online. But according to the study, which will be published online Oct. 22 in Pediatrics, incarcerated teens have similar rates of internet use to the general adolescent population — 87 percent said they used the internet at least once per week when not detained — and 90 percent said they'd be interested in tracking their health information online.


Next steps involve figuring out privacy issues — most teenagers said they'd have no problem sharing their health records with doctors and parents, but there are confidentiality laws to contend with — but the fact that the teens surveyed were responsive to and excited about the potential of such a service bodes well for its eventual success. "These young people are marginalized, considered delinquent," said the study's senior author, Arash Anoshiravani, MD. "They're often not considered when it comes to new ways of engaging patients." Now, at least some of them are.

Troubled teens could benefit from online access to health records, say Stanford researchers [EurekaAlert]

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