Transitioning from pediatric to adult medical care can be a daunting time for both parents and their children. While it may be difficult to leave the comfort of your family provider, finding the best adult care for your child is an important part of growing up. Here are some tips to help make the transition as smooth as possible for you and your child.

Take early action

The Children’s National Hospital Adolescent Medical Clinic sees patients until the age of 22, but depending on your provider, the transition can begin anywhere between 18-22. In order to ensure a safe and healthy transition for your kids, you should start conversations as early as 16 or 17. This is especially important for kids with complex care needs to ensure there is adequate time to transition to new doctors and specialists. Studies have shown that there can be an increase in complications and health-related issues during the time of transition. Early transitions are essential in preventing these complications.

Empowering young adults to take control of their own healthcare

Transitioning your children from pediatric to adult care can be a great way to empower them to take control of their health and healthcare experience independently. Around the time of this transition, children are often getting ready to go away to college or work. Building autonomy in their healthcare can help prepare them for this new stage of independence in their lives. This is a great time to teach your kids how to make their own appointments, know the medications they take and navigate their own healthcare limitations. Keep in mind that this transition can happen before they leave the nest. Having conversations about their medical history and conditions early will only help your kids have a better understanding of their care in the long run.

5 tips to help transition your child to adult care

  1. Differences in approach: While pediatric care is very supportive and understanding, it is important to keep in mind that patients are expected to be more independent in adult care. Prepare your children to take responsibility for their care and needs.
  2. Look for a provider that understands your specific needs: For healthy kids, it can be helpful to choose a provider that accepts your insurance and has openings in your area. For those in need of specialized care, it can help to look for someone who will understand their conditions in a young adult setting.
  3. Provider recommendations are extremely helpful: Talk to your specialist to see who is the best fit for you and your needs.
  4. Prepare your kids: Keep track of medical records and share them with your children, so they are equipped to attend appointments on their own. Pictures of their vaccine records and medication lists can be stored on their phone for easy access. For more complicated health information, creating a medical summary on a flash drive can be useful.
  5. Make your appointments ASAP: To ensure there is no delay in care, start looking for adult providers well before your child intends to transition. Depending on availability, it can often take time to get your foot in the door with a new provider.

It is never too early to start thinking about transitioning care with your teen, especially in relation to a chronic health condition. Transitioning your child from pediatric to adult care is a great first step in increasing their independence so they can become a happy and healthy adult.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Anisha Abraham Anisha Abraham, MD, MPH, is a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist at Children’s National as well as Acting Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Director of the Adolescent Medicine Fellowship Program.

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