Context: It has been suggested that clinicians should increase efforts to modify and prevent risky behavior in adolescents. Professional organizations have proposed recommendations about access to care and preventive services, but it is difficult to know where and how to most effectively deliver such services.
Practice pattern examined: Clinic visits among adolescent HMO members (14 to 17 years of age).
Setting: Kaiser Permanente Northwest Division, a medium-sized, nonprofit, group-model HMO in the Pacific Northwest.
Data sources: Two administrative databases (one for membership and one for outpatient utilization).
Results: A total of 22,626 adolescents who met the inclusion criteria were identified. Of these, 62% (more than 14,000 adolescents) were seen in a primary care clinic within 1 year; almost 83% (more than 18,000 adolescents) were seen within 2 years. There were several opportunities for follow-up for adolescents who had at least one visit in 1995: 60% had more than one visit during 1995, and 80% had more than one visit over the 2-year span of 1995 and 1996. The largest number of adolescent visits occurred in August through November, and most visits took place in the afternoon.
Conclusions: Primary care visits in an HMO present an excellent opportunity to reach many teenagers outside of a school setting. Short-term educational or prevention programs would be optimal during late summer and fall; additional staff members may be able to present these programs after school once school begins.