Adolescent Perspectives on the Use of Telemedicine for Confidential Health Care: An Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study

J Adolesc Health. 2023 Aug;73(2):360-366. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2023.04.005. Epub 2023 May 23.


Purpose: Telemedicine can improve access to adolescent health care, but adolescents may experience barriers to accessing this care confidentially. Gender-diverse youth (GDY) may especially benefit from telemedicine through increased access to geographically limited adolescent medicine subspecialty care but may have unique confidentiality needs. In an exploratory analysis, we examined adolescents' perceived acceptability, preferences, and self-efficacy related to using telemedicine for confidential care.

Methods: We surveyed 12- to 17-year-olds following a telemedicine visit with an adolescent medicine subspecialist. Open-ended questions assessing acceptability of telemedicine for confidential care and opportunities to enhance confidentiality were qualitatively analyzed. Likert-type questions assessing preference for future use of telemedicine for confidential care and self-efficacy to complete components of telemedicine visits confidentially were summarized and compared across cisgender versus GDY.

Results: Participants (n = 88) included 57 GDY and 28 cisgender females. Factors affecting the acceptability of telemedicine for confidential care related to patient location, telehealth technology, adolescent-clinician relationships, and quality or experience of care. Perceived opportunities to protect confidentiality included using headphones, secure messaging, and prompting from clinicians. Most participants (53/88) were likely or very likely to use telemedicine for future confidential care, but self-efficacy for completing components of telemedicine visits confidentially varied by component.

Discussion: Adolescents in our sample were interested in using telemedicine for confidential care, but cisgender and GDY recognized threats to confidentiality that may reduce acceptability of telemedicine for these services. Clinicians and health systems should carefully consider youth's preferences and unique confidentiality needs to ensure equitable access, uptake, and outcomes of telemedicine.

Keywords: Access to care; Adolescent health services; Adolescents; Confidentiality; Contraception; Sexual and gender minorities; Sexual health; Telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services*
  • Adolescent Medicine*
  • Confidentiality
  • Female
  • Health Facilities
  • Humans
  • Telemedicine*