BOSTON — A few adjustments might be needed to make your practice approachable and comfortable for adolescent patients, but the long-term payoffs can be worth it.
“Why is it some people aren't so comfortable taking care of adolescents? They think they take more time in the office. They have varied issues. It's sometimes challenging, and a lot of ob.gyn. residency programs didn't address pediatric or adolescent gynecology specifically, Marc Laufer, M.D., said at an ob.gyn. meeting sponsored by Harvard Medical School.
“We're aware of that, and we're trying to address it through the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology [NASPAG],” said Dr. Laufer of Harvard and chief of gynecology at Children's Hospital Boston.
Confidentiality is “one of the key issues” in making a practice more friendly for adolescents. One critical move is to make sure sound doesn't carry. If office walls aren't soundproof, Dr. Laufer suggested using sound machines, such as white noise machines or sound conditioners, which can help mask sounds between offices.
A lot of care for these patients can be conducted by their primary care providers. But when it comes to certain diseases, “if we treat and diagnose them when people are younger, we may improve their long-term health care,” Dr. Laufer said at the meeting cosponsored by Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. Laufer said if polycystic ovary syndrome were diagnosed and treated during adolescence, there would be a greater chance of decreasing rates of obesity and diabetes. The same holds for endometriosis. An early diagnosis likely would result in less pelvic pain over the patient's lifetime and lead to improved long-term fertility.
Since most adolescents are “Internet savvy,” Dr. Laufer encouraged physicians to direct young patients to online resources such as the Web site by the Center for Young Women's Health at Children's Hospital Boston (www.youngwomenshealth.org
The NASPAG's Web site (www.naspag.org