When should my child transition from pediatric to adult care?

A little bit of planning and preparation can help your child with a smooth transition from pediatric to adult care.

Every child eventually grows out of their pediatrician’s office, but the path to finding a new adult primary care provider doesn’t have to be stressful.

“A little bit of planning and preparation can help your child with a smooth transition from pediatric to adult care,” said Becky Carothers, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of Norton Children’s Medical Group.

When is the right time?

The transition from pediatric to adult care typically occurs between ages 18 and 21.

Although children become legal adults at age 18, there is not a hard cutoff when it comes to “graduating” to an adult primary care physician. Check with your child’s provider, as some pediatricians may provide care for young adults through college (until age 21 or graduation).

How to find an adult provider

Ask for a referral. Ask your pediatrician for recommended providers if you don’t have a family doctor whom your child wants to see or if your child has a chronic condition that will need an adult specialist’s care. If your child has a rare condition or will require a specialist, start searching for doctors ahead of time, during the teen years.

Start out with a trial period. Families and young adults should feel empowered to choose the provider who’s best for them, whether the choice is based on a provider’s specialization or the patient’s trust and comfort level.

If your child has a preexisting condition, ask if your child can see a new doctor for a trial period. Then, follow up with the pediatric specialist to see how things went and put both doctors in touch to plan for the transition of care. Allow plenty of time for this process. That way, if there’s an issue, your child can continue seeing the pediatric specialist until you find an adult provider who is a better fit.

Double-check insurance. When transitioning from pediatric to adult care, be sure the new provider is still “in network” — whether covered by the young adult’s new insurance or the parent’s existing plan, if the child is still under the family’s coverage.

Becoming self-sufficient at appointments

Parents can prepare children for managing their own health care by sharing responsibilities during the teenage years. Teens can take an active role by scheduling appointments and refilling prescriptions. Encourage your child to ask questions during their appointment or have the provider explain information in a way they understand. This can gradually build confidence and help establish more independence.

Norton Children’s Medical Group

Our pediatricians offer care throughout childhood and the teen years, and can recommend the best adult providers to young adults who are ready.

Call (502) 629-KIDS (5437), option 3

The transition from pediatric to adult care doesn’t affect only the child; parents also should prepare for certain adjustments. As an adult, your child will make all medical decisions and is entitled to privacy about all medical conditions. You won’t get that information unless your child chooses to share it with you.

It’s important for young adults to share their medical information with all their health care providers. This includes previous illnesses, operations, medicines and immunizations. They also should mention any allergic reactions to medicines, and any family history of disease, like cancer or heart disease. Encourage your child to schedule regular checkups in addition to any health concerns, keep copies of all medical records and manage their list of medicines.

Your child’s first visit

For the first appointment with a new provider, your child should bring the following items:

  • Insurance card
  • A list of current prescriptions (including medical supplies)
  • Bottles of all current prescription medications
  • A list (and dosages) of all current medications (prescription and over-the-counter)
  • Preferred pharmacy to fill prescriptions (name and address)
  • Medical history and vaccine records
  • Family health history
  • Personal contact information

A list of questions to discuss with the provider