Is Your Teen or Young Adult Prepared to Manage Their Own Healthcare? - Cincinnati Children's Blog

Is Your Teen or Young Adult Prepared to Manage Their Own Healthcare?

Teen transitions can be hard. And let’s face it, there are a lot of them. Making the move to the world of adult healthcare is just one of the many transitions that teens must manage.

Changing from pediatric to adult medical providers can be overwhelming if you’re not prepared. Whether your child has one primary care doctor or multiple specialists providing treatment, transition is a process. Being prepared is the key to success.

Empowering Teens

At Cincinnati Children’s, our Adolescent and Transition Medicine Clinic helps families with this transition. Our ultimate goal for these clinics is to help teens and young adults feel empowered to manage their own healthcare and eventually switch 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.

We believe it is important to begin the discussion of transition when your child is 12-17 years old. Early conversations and preparation are essential to assuring that your child continues to receive care without running into roadblocks along the way. A 2017 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs found that 85.6 percent of the parents surveyed said that their child did not receive services necessary for transition to adult healthcare.

Know the Specifics

It is vital to understand that when a child turns 18, they become their own guardian. They are responsible for making all of their own healthcare decisions. In the event that a teen needs help with these decisions, a signed release of information might be all that is needed. This will allow identified support people to communicate with the medical team on the teen’s behalf. Other teens will require assistance in making healthcare and financial decisions; this may require power of attorney for healthcare decision-making or guardianship.

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 will need help managing their own healthcare as adults, while others won’t. Parents and guardians are a great asset in the lives of the patient and can help navigate these challenges.

Can Your Teen Answer These Questions?

To help with a successful transition to adult medical care, below 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 them 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. Do you know your family’s health history?

Other points to talk through with your teen include:

  • If they know how long their current doctor will continue to see them
  • If they have thought about where they will go for their adult medical care, once they graduate from the pediatric setting
  • Health insurance and what benefits are covered under their plan

Healthcare transition builds self-esteem, resilience and self-advocacy. It’s a big deal, but with the right preparation, it will go smoothly. Our message for parents and teens is to think ahead and get ready. Talk to one another and to current doctors and other healthcare providers about it now, so that when the time comes, there will be no surprises.

Editor’s Note: Erica Koe-Krompecher, LISW-S, LICDC-CS, OCPC, CCTSW, also contributed to this blog post. She is a social worker in the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Teen Health at Cincinnati Children’s.

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La Donna Morales, MSW, LSW

About the Author: La Donna Morales, MSW, LSW

La Donna is a social work care manager at Cincinnati Children’s. She serves as an advocate for patients and families with medical complexities who are in the process of transitioning into the adult medical setting. La Donna has over 20 years of experience working with individuals and families with special healthcare needs. She is also a parent of an adult daughter with medical complexities.

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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.