Adolescent primary care visit patterns
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PURPOSE: Many clinical preventive care services are recommended for adolescents. Little is known about whether most adolescents have a sufficient number of preventive care services visits over time to receive those services. We wanted to measure how frequently adolescents who are insured either through private insurance or government programs have preventive vs nonpreventive care visits. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective descriptive analysis based on claims data from a large health plan in Minnesota with about 700,000 members. All study patients were aged 11 to 18 years between January 1, 1998, and December 31, 2007. Our outcome measure was rates of preventive and nonpreventive care visits. RESULTS: One-third of adolescents with 4 or more years of continuous enrollment had no preventive care visits from age 13 through 17 years, and another 40% had only a single such visit. Nonpreventive care visits were more frequent in all age-groups, averaging about 1 per year at age 11 years, climbing to about 1.5 per year at age 17 years. Differences in rates between government insurance and commercial insurance were small. In older adolescence, girls had more preventive care visits and more nonpreventive care visits than did boys. CONCLUSIONS: Most adolescents come in infrequently for preventive care visits but more often for nonpreventive care visits. We recommend using the same approach in adolescence for preventive care that is being used in adults: the no-missed-opportunities paradigm. All visits by adolescents should be viewed as an opportunity to provide preventive care services, and systems should be set up to make that possible, even in busy practices with short encounters with a clinician.
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