By: Peggy McManus, MHS & Patience White, MD, MA, FAAP
There are many milestones on the journey to living on your own and taking care of your health. One notable milestone is the move from a doctor who takes care of children (pediatrician) to a doctor who takes care of adults. The transition typically takes several years where you gradually take more responsibility for your own health.
When you were growing up, your parents made many of the decisions about your health and healthcare. When you move to adult care, you make the decisions about your health, which may include support from your family.
Getting ready for the transition
During this time, you can discuss your health concerns privately with your doctor. You can also prepare for your visits by asking questions, making your own appointments, learning more about health insurance and paying for health care, and refilling your medicines. At age 18, you are legally an adult, and your doctor can only share your medical information with you, unless you give permission to share it with someone else.
It's important to ask your pediatrician when the right time is to move to a doctor who cares for adults. Some pediatric offices see patients up to the age of 18; others see them through the age of 21. If you are seeing a family medicine doctor, you may not need to transfer to a new doctor, but you will switch to adult-centered care.
Switching to a new doctor can be a pretty major change because you have known your pediatrician for a long time and are comfortable with them. Moving to a new place can be scary but also exciting!
Consider a joint telehealth visit
To ease this change and give you a chance to meet your new doctor, ask your pediatrician if they would be willing to have a joint telehealth visit with you and your new adult doctor before your first visit. This could be a phone or video call between you, your current doctor, and your new doctor. You can ask questions and share information about your health that you'd like your new doctor to know. You can make sure your new doctor is familiar with you and your health history, including any long-term illness.
Before organizing this joint visit, Got Transition, a national center for health care transition, created a list of suggested questions you and your family could ask your doctors:
For your pediatrician:
At what age do I need to change to a new doctor who cares for adults?
Do you have any suggestions for adult doctors I can visit?
Can I work with you to prepare a medical summary that I can share with the new doctor?
What are some differences between pediatric and adult care?
For your adult doctor:
Do you take my health insurance?
Where is your office located, and do you have walk-in times?
What services does your practice offer in addition to primary care (eg, lab, sexual health, mental health)?
Talking together with your current and future doctors can help relieve any worries you have about this change. Good luck on your transition journey!
About Dr. White
Patience H. White, MD, MA, FAAP, MACP, MACR, Senior Medical Director at The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health and co-Director of Got Transition, is an adult and pediatric rheumatologist and professor emeritus of medicine and pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She is an internationally recognized expert in the field of transition and has written numerous articles on the subject, including coauthoring the AAP/AAFP/ACP Clinical Report on Health Care Transition. Dr. White completed a doctor of medicine degree from Harvard Medical School, a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy fellowship, and a master's degree in Education from George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
About Ms. McManus
Peggy McManus is the President of The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health and co-Director of Got Transition, the federally funded national resource on health care transition. She has directed numerous federal, state and private foundation projects on child and adolescent health. She has authored publications on a broad range of topics including health care transition, health care financing, primary and preventive care, and quality improvement. Ms. McManus received a Watson Fellowship and has a master's degree in Health Sciences from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
This article is supported by a cooperative agreement to the American Academy of Pediatrics from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). as part of an award totaling $6,000,000 with no percentage financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.
Got Transition® is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number, U1TMC31756. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.