Transitioning to Adult Care
Among the many changes you experience as you become a young adult is the transition to an adult primary care doctor. Your pediatrician will care for you until you turn 18, so it's a good idea to start thinking about who will replace your pediatrician before then.
Look for a doctor who you are comfortable with and trust and will be honest with you about any health risks you may have. You also want that person to be easy to reach, as you may be heading off to college.
Ask your current doctor to help you find an awesome new physician. Have your parents help you schedule an appointment with your new physician prior to switching over to adult health care.
- Before Leaving Home
- Getting Help with the Transition
- Chronic Illness or Medical Condition
- Important Information Before
Your First Appointment
Before Leaving Home
Whether you are going away to college or moving to another city, let your doctor know. If you continue your education elsewhere, find out about what your school offers.
Give your home doctor the school's health care information, in case your doctor needs to get in contact with the heath staff at your school.
Ask your parents to help you make an information sheet that includes things like:
- Doctor's name and phone number
- Orthodontist's name and phone number
- Dentist's name and phone number
- Insurance company, policy number and phone number
- A copy of your immunization record
- Date of last tetanus shot
- Name and dosage of daily medications
- Any allergies to medications
- When you need your teeth cleaned again (usually every six months)
- Date of last physical exam,
- Emergency contact information for family and/or friends
If you use a mail order pharmacy, take several months worth of your medication and make a note in your calendar or planner about when you will need to re-order the medicine to avoid running out.
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Getting Help with the Transition
The transition to adult health care works best if you have a professional to help you. Often, medical centers offer appointments where you can meet with your pediatrician and adult care workers to discuss the transition process.
Outline the different transitional steps, and then assign dates to these steps. For example, plan on learning how to call in to make an appointment yourself by a specific date, or have your doctor quiz you on your health care insurance on a specified date.
If you overshoot these dates, don't worry. It's a learning process.
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Chronic Illness or Medical Condition
If you have a chronic illness, serious medical condition (such as asthma or diabetes) or complicated medical history, talk with your doctor about when to transition to an adult primary care physician.
If you require regular continued support to monitor your condition, start early and become more self-reliant in your tasks to allow for a smoother transition.
Also, if you need a doctor with specific skill sets, or multiple people to monitor your transition, make sure to find the doctor and/or care staff with the qualifications to meet all your needs. Ask doctors about their experience with taking care of people with your condition or disability.
Before talking to a new doctor, you will need the following information:
- Your diagnosis
- The name and dosage of medications you take
- Why you take them
- The foods/medication you should not take with these medications
- Who your prior specialists were
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Important Information Before
Your First Appointment
You can ask your parents, your pediatrician, or any other adult health care workers to help you learn all the information you need to know about your transition to adult health care.
To help you along your way, we've compile a list of things you'll need to know to complete the transition.
Scheduling an Appointment
- When to call a doctor
- How to do so (i.e. your clinic's number and the name of the department you are trying to reach)
- The name and number for your health insurance plan
- Who to call for special appointments (i.e. gynecologist vs. orthopedist)
- How do you get there?
Before a Doctors Appointment
- Know which pharmacy you use
- Have a copy of your insurance card (medical and dental may be different)
- Whether or not your insurance requires pre-approval to cover costs
- Your legal rights and responsibilities; your parents are no longer able to access your medical records, and what you tell your doctor is completely confidential
- If necessary, find all important forms online; fill them out and bring them to your appointment
- Have an up-to-date summary of your immunization and medical history
- Know how to register at a new clinic, check in for your appointment at the front desk, and navigate the waiting room
During the Visit
- Any questions you've had (bring a notebook so you can take notes of the doctor's responses)
- Get clear instructions on your plan of care, medications you may be prescribed and possible side effects.
- Make sure the doctor and his or her assistant know how to reach you (your best contact number and whether it is OK to leave a message)
After the Visit
- If a follow-up appointment is necessary
About Your Prescription(s)
- The difference between name-brand and generic medications and the different costs
- How to refill a prescription or fill a new one (at a local pharmacy or at a mail order pharmacy)
- Which medicines to take for minor illnesses like headaches, sore muscles, constipation, diarrhea, colds and flu, etc.
- The correct amount of your medication to take and when (what time(s) of the day) to take it
- The side effects of drugs (especially in combination with other medications, alcohol and recreational drugs)
- Which medical tests or procedures you need to get done regularly (i.e. annual flu shot). This is especially important if you take medication that requires monitoring with regular blood tests or other procedures/exams
- Where your local free clinic or your school's health center is, as well as an emergency room, its contact information, and its hours of operation, how and when to use them, and who to call after hours
- What allergies you have and how to get help if you have an allergic reaction
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Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them. (All links open to new window.)
- National Diabetes Education Program
- National Center for Medical Home Implementation
- Children's Hospital of Wisconsin
As of 2015, if you are covered under your parent's health insurance, you can get services like birth control, STI/pregnancy tests or outpatient mental health services from your usual health care provider and keep that information private, BUT YOU MUST TAKE ACTION.
It's simple to take action and protect your privacy: Submit a confidential Communication Request to your health plan provider today.
- Know your health plan and policy number.
- Contact your health plan.
- Submit a confidential communication request (get a form here: Confidential Communications Request).
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Written By: Jenny McElaney,
college student writer
Reviewed By: Elizabeth Lee,
M.D., Family Medicine
With thanks to Molly & Nan Dellheim
Last Reviewed: June 2015
Download our handouts on:free Adobe Reader)
Search for a PAMF Family Medicine or Internal Medicine doctor accepting new patients for your adult primary care doctor.
Additional Helpful Hints:
- Set an alarm reminding you when to take daily medicines
- Carry a copy or list of your medications and your doctor's business card in your wallet with emergency contact information.
- Keep an up-to-date calendar with all appointments
- Post reminders and important contact information in plain view in your room
- Enter your clinic's number into your cell phone