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Growing Pains: Transitioning From Pediatric to Adult Care

Taylor Thompson, FNP-C

Getting your driver’s license, heading off to college, entering the workforce – these are just a few of the milestones that may mark your journey from childhood into the adult world. Included in this list is the transition from pediatric to adult health care. While this change may not be as exciting as getting your first car, continuity of care is incredibly important for your overall health!

Historically, pediatricians have provided care for patients from birth to 18 (or 21) years old, depending on many factors, including provider policies, patient preferences, and individual health care needs. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians ditched the concept of a golden age to transition to an adult health care provider. The focus has instead shifted from the “right age” to the “right time,” leading providers to evaluate an individual’s readiness to transition to an adult provider based on their unique needs. The path can be confusing, causing some patients to fall out of care between adolescence and adulthood. The good news is, efforts are underway to ensure parents and adolescents are given what they need to ensure a seamless transition from pediatric to adult care.

In addition to sometimes being an unclear process, the transition may bring other emotions and challenges. While the shift to health care independence may feel exciting and liberating, it may also feel scary and intimidating. Adolescents typically spend years relying on a parent or guardian to help them schedule appointments, communicate with their provider, and ensure visits are covered from a billing and insurance standpoint. While the shift to an adult provider certainly does not mean parents have to totally step away, it does often demand you take a bit more control in navigating the health care system.

Pediatric providers often begin preparing their teen and young adult patients for health care independence by asking them questions about their general health needs directly. Even though parental consent is required for procedures and immunizations if a patient is under 18, teens and young adults are often encouraged to begin attending appointments alone to foster confidence and comfort.

Once an individual is deemed capable of understanding and communicating their health care needs and can take responsibility for managing their own health, they are ready to transition to an adult primary care provider. Similar to pediatricians, adult primary care providers focus on age-specific primary prevention measures, mental health and well-being, lifestyle choices, and reproductive health.

Continuing care is essential for overall health and provides many important benefits. A primary care provider will become familiar with your medical history, family history, and lifestyle choices to provide you with individualized preventive care, comprehensive health management, health care advice, chronic disease management, and health education. Staying plugged in with a provider also increases accessibility, reducing your need to make costly visits to an urgent care or an emergency room, especially in non-urgent situations.

Another benefit of having a primary care provider is being able to get referrals to specialists in a timely manner when needed, like an orthopedic surgeon or chiropractor. Adult providers are also typically able to help patients navigate concerns with insurance and affordability. While most insurance companies will allow coverage under a parent’s plan until age 26, your provider may be able to help you navigate options for health care coverage following termination of your childhood benefits. Ultimately, having a provider and a health care home you are familiar with increases the potential for staying up-to-date on primary prevention measures, early detection and treatment of health issues, and accessible, affordable health care. Staying in good health will ensure you can accomplish all the other adult milestones on your list!

At HopeHealth, we are working to encourage continuity of care through HopeXpress, a program geared towards helping patients transition from the pediatric to the primary care model. Our providers understand the benefits of a smooth transition from one provider to the next, and offer patient-specific support and direction. For more information about HopeXpress, visit hope-health.org or call (843) 667-9414.

Taylor Thompson is a family nurse practitioner providing care for patients in the HopeXpress program for young adults. She has special interest in heart health preventive care for younger adults, and keeping young adults in care.

 


HopeHealth

HopeHealth

HopeHealth educates its patients on the importance of having a health care home. As a primary care facility, HopeHealth’s medical team works to prevent and detect illness and the early onset of disease, provide routine physical examinations and promote overall healthy lifestyles.

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HopeHealth 360 North Irby St. Florence, SC 29501 (843) 667-9414
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