Teach your child how to transition from pediatric to adult provider

Life is full of transitions – between grades, between jobs, between houses – but rarely do we think about healthcare transitions. 

Healthcare transitions can include the transition from a pediatric healthcare provider to adult provider or leaving the hospital and going to a rehabilitation facility or home. This article is the first in a series discussing healthcare transitions from pediatric to adult healthcare.

Parents teach their children about responsibility, such as learning to manage money, and life skills like cooking, doing laundry, driving etc. But, teaching their teen about managing healthcare is too often overlooked.

How do we demonstrate the necessary steps for youth to acquire this new responsibility? What steps need to be completed to have the physical or sick visit?

Here are the main steps to consider:

Step 1: Make sure your youth knows the healthcare provider’s name and phone number to be able to make an appointment. The phone trees at many offices can be confusing so knowing the healthcare provider’s name can help ensure getting routed to the right staff.

Step 2: Make sure your youth carries their insurance card and know what it is for. When they are asked at check-in to provide their insurance card, this will help speed up the intake process and make your youth feel confident in being able to provide information at check-in.

Step 3: Talk about knowing why your youth is there for the office visit. If they didn’t arrange the visit, do they know why they are expected to show up? Talking through your youth’s symptoms prior to the visit can also help them feel more comfortable providing information about their symptoms.

Step 4: Discuss and possibly write down any chronic conditions and health history. Can they talk with the provider about how their conditions affect them? Do they need any adaptive devices/equipment or do they need any supports in school or in the home to complete daily self-care?

Step 5: Talk about the medications that your youth is taking and why. It is also important to know if there are any medication allergies and what might happen if they are exposed to that medication. Also they should know how to obtain refills at the pharmacy.

Prior to changing to an adult healthcare provider, at around age 12 to 14, is a good time to work on these skills. It is easy enough to have your teen carry their insurance card in a wallet. Or at minimum they can carry a copy of the card if you are concerned about it being lost.

 Have your teen lead the check-in process at the next visit. You can certainly be there as back-up, but letting them lead is good practice. The healthcare provider will typically start wanting to have some one-on-one time with your teen and this is an opportunity for your teen to work on communication confidence.

Make sure part of the visit is dedicated to discussing medication. Ensuring that your teen understands their medication is important to feeling better and continued good health. 

Lisa Plotnik, MD is a practitioner in the Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Department at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Manchester. For more information, go to www.chadkids.org.

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