The transition from adolescence to adulthood involves switching from a pediatrician to a family doctor or primary care physician (PCP). Pediatricians usually ask that families transition to adult care when the patient is between the ages of 18 and 21.
Some patients are comfortable seeing their pediatrician in their early 20s. For other teenagers and young adults, sitting in a waiting room surrounded by toys and toddlers can feel odd enough to kickstart a change.
Either way, here are some points to consider before making the switch.
Why should my family move on from our pediatrician?
Most pediatricians are trained to care for infants and children. PCPs and adult care specialists are trained to diagnose a wider range of health issues as adolescents become adults.
Also, young teenagers may start to have questions about their hormonal and developmental changes, and even about substance use as they become exposed to it at school. They may feel more comfortable talking about these topics with an adult doctor, and not in front of their parents.
Tips for switching to a primary care physician
Start the discussions early. Conversations should begin with your family pediatrician when your child is between the ages of 13 and 15. Starting these talks at this time is important because if your child has special needs or complex medical problems, the transition could be complicated.
A child with a disability may require their parents to be involved in their life and health care decisions past the age of 18.
Discussing whether guardianship is a good idea is another reason to start talks early. You should also consider looping your child into these conversations, to see if they have any concerns. Learn about their preferences, in terms of a larger or smaller practice, an older or younger physician, location of the facility and more.
Make sure your teen is familiar with their personal health history. If your teen has a chronic health condition, make sure they have a solid understanding of that condition. If they take medication, make sure they know the names and doses. It’s important that children and teens understand their health history so they can ask the right questions during appointments.
When finding an adult provider, ask your pediatrician for a referral. They will also need to pass along your teen’s health records. Some pediatricians are willing to make a summary of past and current issues with your teen, making for a smooth handoff to a new doctor.
As important as it is for teens to understand their own health history, knowing their family’s medical history is just as critical. Write down the medical problems of parents, siblings, grandparents, and close relatives for your teen to take to their new doctor during their first visit.
Making doctors aware of family medical history helps them pinpoint patterns in your teen’s health. It can also help them decide if they should speed up the timeline on certain preventative procedures.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) and Blue Care Network (BCN) members can help their teen find an in-network doctor by logging into their BCBSM account and using the “Find a PCP” function under the “Doctors & Hospitals” tab.
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