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What is a Healthcare Transition?

A healthcare transition occurs when an adolescent or young adult moves from receiving pediatric healthcare to receiving adult healthcare.1,2 This transition is experienced by youth who change healthcare providers and by those youth who transition from a child-oriented model of care to an adult-oriented model of care (e.g., a family medicine doctor who sees all members of a family will still need to adjust how they approach visits as adolescents age).

Many factors can make a healthcare transition difficult. Systems of care for children and adults are quite different, and pediatric healthcare providers sometimes lack the knowledge and skills needed to work with young adults. Some young adults find it difficult to take charge of their own healthcare. This transition can be particularly hard for young adults with special healthcare needs. In fact, most research on healthcare transition focuses on challenges for young adults with chronic conditions or disabilities. 

It is essential to have systems and resources in place to ensure that all adolescents experience a successful healthcare transition. Adolescents, families, and providers can use the steps outlined below to ensure a successful transition.

Plan a Healthcare Transition

Although each young person’s situation is unique, a well-timed healthcare transition ought to occur from ages 18 to 21. However, planning for healthcare transition should begin much earlier, at around age 12. Below is a timeline for the ideal healthcare transition developed by Got Transition

Recommended Health Care Transition Timeline


1 Mubanga, N., Baumgardner, D. J., & Kram, J. J. (2017). Health care transition for adolescents and young adults with special health care needs: Where are we now? Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews, 4(2), 90–95.
2 American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011). Supporting the healthcare transition from adolescence to adulthood in the medical home. Pediatrics, 128(1), 182-200.
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on August 6, 2019