Heads up, parents! You lose access to your child’s medical records when they turn 12

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Okay parents — heads up! We learned information Tuesday that we bet a lot of you didn’t know.

When your child turns 12, you automatically lose access to most of his or her medical records. News10NBC started digging into this when one mother in Webster got a hospital message the day after her son’s 12th birthday.

The email to Melanie Barnas-Simmons was about her 12-year-old son, Joseph. Joey is active. He’s a goalie for the Rochester Jr. Amerks and a pretty fearless bike rider too.

The message came through Barnas-Simmons’ MyCare portal at Rochester Regional Health. Because it was meant for Joseph, she couldn’t access the message. She called customer service and when asked about his date of birth, Barnas-Simmons said her son just turned 12.

"And she said — ‘Oh, I think that’s the issue,’" Barnas-Simmons said.

In New York, the law says online medical records for children 12 to 17 are protected, even from their parents.

"My son is 12. Maybe other 12-year-olds are more mature," she said. "But 12-year-olds up to 15, 16, 17, 18-year-olds — they need their parents to be able to have access to their information."

Privacy laws go back to the early 2000s. In a 2018 report by the New York Civil Liberties Union, it says a health care provider "needs the written authorization of a minor patient before disclosing information to a parent.

On the URMC website, it says parents of teenagers can get "Limited Proxy Access" which means information about "allergies, immunizations and letters." Everything else requires their child’s "permission" and "must be requested in-person at your child’s doctor’s office."

Brean: "I bet it comes as a shock to the average parent that when their child turns 12 they’re shut out from some of the information."

Barnas-Simmons: "Oh absolutely! I have a 15-year-old and I’ve never dealt with this. So all of a sudden I can’t my 12-year-old’s information? I can get it from my doctor’s office, they have their own portal. I just don’t understand where the 12 came from."

Rochester Regional Health does not allow medical accounts for children 12 to 17. URMC does.

The URMC website says, "A MyChart message is then sent to your child asking him or her to approve proxy access" for parents or guardians. It says "The child can choose to provide Full Access."

URMC sends a message to children between 12 and 17 every year letting them know they can change their proxy. The philosophy behind it is a 12-year-old can give full access to their parents but then change it when their 16 or 17.

Studies show a significant number of middle and high school students in the United States avoided medical care because they didn’t want their parents to find out.

One local pediatrician told me at age 12 is when they can start asking kids about drugs, alcohol, sex, anxiety and depression.