Is Your Teen Or Young Adult Prepared to Manage His Own Healthcare?


Does your teen schedule her own doctor’s appointments? Does he know how to fill a prescription?  Do you know what doctor(s) your child will see when she becomes an adult?  These are the types of questions that we ask families in our transition medicine clinic.

They’re simple questions with big implications.

A 2009/2010 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs  found that more than 50 percent of the parents surveyed said that no one has spoken to them about the upcoming need for their children to see adult providers.

We started the transition medicine clinic over a year ago, and it’s helped us get a better understanding of just how complicated and widespread this feeling of unpreparedness is.

Our ultimate goal for this clinic is to help teens and young adults feel empowered to manage their own healthcare and eventually transition to adult care. The definition of transition in medical care is the process of moving an adolescent or young adult from pediatrics to the adult healthcare system.  Although our main focus is health care transition, we approach this with the awareness that there are many other life transitions occurring at this point in our patients’ lives that may affect how they manage their health care.

While eventual “graduation” is our main objective, the execution of it gets complicated for many reasons. Some patients have complex conditions, some don’t. Some patients already have a primary care doctor, some have been dismissed from a practice due to their age. Some patients with complex medical conditions have not been able to find adult healthcare providers familiar with their condition.

Each of these situations has their own unique set of challenges that we help patients through.  They’re far too complex and lengthy for discussion here – each one could probably be its own blog post!

What we can help parents with, is a list of questions that all teens regardless of their medical situation, should be able to answer. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but knowing the answers to these questions can start the conversation with your teen to prepare him for the eventual transition:

  1. What are your medical conditions?
  2. Who are your doctors, and do you know how to contact them and schedule appointments?
  3. Who should you call in a medical emergency?
  4. Do you have any dietary or medical restrictions?
  5. What medications are you on, and are there any interactions you should be aware of?
  6. Do you know how to fill a prescription?
  7. What should you do if you have a bad reaction to medication?
  8. At what body temperature do you have a fever?
  9. Do you carry your insurance card with you?
  10. Do you know your family’s health history?

In the last year, we’ve helped almost 400 patients navigate this complicated process.  The overwhelming sentiment we hear from them is relief.  Many of them were dismissed from a practice due to their age and have subsequently been out of care for a really long time. Others were approaching that transition age and were feeling anxious about where they were going to go next.

Our message for parents and teens is to start thinking about it and get prepared.  Transitioning to adult care is a natural, expected process and will go a lot more smoothly when there is a plan in place. Talk to your current doctor about it now. Seek help if you’re not getting the information you need.  There are many resources available to help with you this process, such as the National Health Care Transition Center and the National Center for Medical Home Implementation from the American Academy of Pediatrics.



Abigail Nye, MD

About the Author: Abigail Nye, MD

Abigail Nye, MD, is the director of Transition Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s. Dr. Nye completed her training in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati and went on to become the first Transition Medicine Fellow at Cincinnati Children’s. She loves being a part of the development of the Transition Medicine Program and is looking forward to continuing to work with families and community providers to make sure the program is meeting the needs of patients and families.

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  1. Suzetta Yates March 14, 10:35
    This is really good information. I sent my son off to college and freshman year he got really sick and we had not prepared him for how to navigate a complex medical system. I have freshmen in high school and I am already educating them on information they need to know about themselves and how to manage once they are outside the home. Lesson learned a little too late.