Pediatrics News

Lakewood Pediatric Associates | Pediatrician serving Lakewood, Tacoma & Fircrest WA

When is your child ready to stay home alone

When deciding whether a child is ready or not, parents should consider their childs feelings, and have a plan in place.  Most children are not ready to handle emergencies until about 11 or 12.  The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to have someone responsible watching their children up to this age.

Things to consider to determine when a child is ready to be left alone:

Is there a law in your state about how young children can be left at home alone?

Does your child obey rules and make good decisions, even in emergencies?  Does the child know when to call 911.

Is the child physically and mentally ready?

How long will the child be alone?  If it is during a meal time, can the child fix a meal?

How often will the child be left alone?

If your child seems ready, you should begin with a short separation while you remain close.  Be sure to set rules about whether guests are allowed or not.  You should review several possible situations and solutions, such as:  a stranger at the door, the child finding an open door or broken window upon coming home.  Also think about possible safety issues in the home, and whether neighbors might be able to help in case of an emergency.  Finally, the decision to allow a child to be alone at home is only after, the above considerations are realized, and both you and your child are comfortable.  You should not feel pressured into accepting an unsafe situation, better safe than sorry.

We have a New Address

As of October 1, 2011, we have moved downstairs in the Bridgeport Professional Building to suite 103.  If you have been used to going upstairs to suite 203, it is no longer necessary to use the elevator.  Our new office is just to the right when you come into the building on the ground floor.

 

Patient Confidentiality.

Most people would think that confidentiality is a good idea, especially with respect to their own medical information.  We wouldn’t want our information getting into the wrong hands.  At Lakewood Pediatric Associates, we take confidentiality seriously.  Both because it is a good idea, and because it is the law.  There is law called the HIPAA law that requires that certain standards be followed.

Well, everyone is for confidentiality, until it affects someone else, or it becomes inconvenient.  When we are talking about the confidentiality of someone who is a child, there are a few complications.  It is generally assumed that the parents of the child can have access and knowledge of the child’s medical information.  But what about grandparents, uncles and aunts, baby sitters, and brothers and sisters.  Should those people have unlimited access to a childs medical records?  Even though, most parents wouldn’t mind if grandparents knew what was going on with their grandchildren, with a few people, this is a problem.  They have a right to control who knows what information about their child.  For this reason we provide all patients with a HIPAA consent form to fill out which allows them to list all the people who have access to their child’s information.  The most common way that people other than parents know about the medical information about children, is by bringing them to the doctors office for a visit.  When a child is brought for an appointment by grandma, or uncle, they get to know what medical issue went on at that visit.  So, if that grandparent is not included on the HIPAA form as one of those people who are allowed to know, we have no way to tell whether a parent is okay with that or not.  And we have to assume that a person not listed on the HIPAA form is not allowed access to the child’s information, so cannot be present at their medical appointment.  This is an example of when confidentiality becomes inconvenient, because there are many times that relatives are asked by parents to bring their child to the doctors office, but they are not on the list of people approved to know the child’s medical condition.  We have been accused of inappropriate release of medical information because we allowed someone not on the list to bring a child to a medical appointment.  A little planning ahead in filling out the HIPAA form, or sending a signed letter with the child and relative giving them permission to bring the child will solve this problem.

Another major area of confidentiality confusion is the area of minor consent.  In this state, the law states that a minor the age of 13 or older can consent to treatment for mental health issues without a parents consent.  This includes drug related problems and treatment.  At the age of 14 a minor can give their own consent for sexual health conditions.  Of course, the reason that the law allows patients as young as 13 to get treatment on their own, is because they may not want their parents to know.  I don’t know of any parent who likes this law.  However, it is the law, and teenagers are people with rights to confidentiality too.  Once a child reaches the age of 14, they get to sign their own HIPAA form and include or exclude whom ever they choose.  In most cases a child will voluntarily include their parent, but sometimes they forget, and sometimes they don’t want to include them.  You can imagine, that this puts us as their doctor in a bind, because we are parents too.  Once a child becomes of legal age, we have to respect their wishes.  Parents can and should discuss this issue with their teen beforehand.

In the case of young children, both birth parents have equal right to access their child’s records.  In cases of divorce or separation, we sometimes have one parent requesting that we keep information away from the other.  We cannot do this, unless we have specific court documents stating this.

In all other cases where another party requests access to a child’s record, a signed release of Medical information form is required.  This may be in communication between our office and other doctors offices, schools, government agencies and law offices.  The exception to this is exchange of information between medical providers related to the management of a problem.  It is possible choose to exclude information relating to mental health, sexual health and drug related issues.

With the proper planning we can ensure your child’s private records remain so, and still accomplish our medical goals.

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