Reston Hospital Center - August 19, 2019

Whether your child will be off to college soon or staying nearby to work, it’s important that they have a good understanding of their healthcare needs in adulthood. Helping them transition from an adolescent provider to an adult healthcare provider is an important first step.

Help your child get ready to take responsibility for their own healthcare with these expert tips.

When to transition to adult healthcare

Your child should be fully transitioned to an adult healthcare provider by no later than the age of 21. However, by age 18 is the ideal time.

As soon as they turn 18 your child will have full legal control over their healthcare. Making the transition by this age ensures they’ll continue receiving age-appropriate care with no gaps in care. You should start the transition process early – at least by the beginning of your child’s senior year of high school.

This is especially important if your child has a chronic condition or disability. It could take time to find the right adult specialty care providers for their needs. If your child needs your help in making healthcare decisions after they turn 18, you’ll also need time to file the right paperwork.

When you’re thinking about the process, remember: Transitioning to adult healthcare is more than just finding a new doctor. You’ll also need to teach your child how to be responsible for their own healthcare. Your current provider may have already started seeing your child alone for part of their appointments. This is a great way to teach them how to talk to  providers.

Adult healthcare transition tips

  • Ask your child’s current provider for help. The provider should already have a referral list ready as well as self-care tips for adulthood. The provider will also assist with transferring medical records and information to your child’s new provider once you’ve found one.
  • Show your child how to fill out patient forms and use online patient charts. Ask your current provider for sample forms for your child to practice filling out. If your child has an online chart, show him how it works and why it’s useful.
  • Explain the basics of health insurance. Although your child may be staying on your health insurance plan, they need to understand the basics of insurance, including how to find in-network providers and what a copay is.
  • Explain the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to your child. Read a sample HIPAA form together, provide a simple explanation, and let them know they’ll be asked to sign it every time they see a new provider.
  • Check out college student healthcare services. If your child will be attending college, check out the university’s student healthcare services. This is often the best place for your child to go for annual checkups and sick care with easy access on campus.
  • Consider your child’s health insurance needs if they’ll be attending college out of state. If your insurance plan won’t cover out-of-state providers, ask the university about their student health insurance options, or visit healthcare.gov to learn how to enroll in a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
  • Give your child important paperwork. When your child turns 18, give them a folder containing all of their important health paperwork, including a list of known allergies, copies of current insurance cards, information about any past hospitalizations or medical procedures, and up-to-date vaccination records.