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July 2019: Teach Adolescents How to Navigate the Healthcare System

Using the healthcare system is essential to positive health, so it is important for caring adults to support adolescents as they transition to the adult healthcare system. Although adolescents tend to be healthier than many other age groups, they become less likely to exercise or get regular physicals and dental check-ups as they grow into adulthood. They also become more likely to have a poor diet and engage in risky behaviors (like smoking, drinking, and drug use) that can lead to injury, illness, or death. 

What is a Healthcare Transition?

A healthcare transition occurs when an adolescent or young adult moves from receiving pediatric healthcare to receiving adult healthcare. Developing a health routine that includes regular healthcare visits will increase the chance of good health into adulthood. A well-timed healthcare transition should occur from ages 18-21, but planning should begin around age 12. Below is an ideal timeline for a healthcare transition, developed by Got Transition.

Necessary Skills to Use the Healthcare System

Adolescents and young adults need to master a set of skills to successfully use the U.S. healthcare system: 

  • The ability to communicate with different types of healthcare providers
  • The ability to follow healthcare provider’s advice
  • The ability to make and keep healthcare appointments
  • The ability to manage their health insurance and healthcare records

We have a table listing the knowledge needed to master these skills, and ways families, caregivers, and healthcare providers can help adolescents practice and make the process as smooth as possible. 

What to Expect During a Healthcare Visit

Healthcare visits change as adolescents grow into adulthood. We have information about what to expect at various stages of a health visit. 

Before the visit: Caring adults can encourage adolescents to fill out forms by pulling together the needed documents, showing adolescents where to find the information, or clarifying questions they may find confusing.

During the visit: Even for patients as young as 11, healthcare providers will start asking parents or guardians to step out of the room for part of the visit, so they can talk one-on-one with the youth.

After the visit: Family member or caregivers can ask if their teen learned anything new or interesting about their health or if they have additional questions.

One-on-one time lets healthcare providers screen for and discuss sensitive topics with adolescents, such as substance use, mental health disorders, and sexual activity. Caring adults can still talk directly to their adolescent about their healthcare experience. Such talks can offer youth the chance to think about their healthcare decisions, ask questions, and express their comfort level with their healthcare provider.

Explore these resources to support adolescent healthcare transitions.

Spread the Word with These Posts

It is essential that adolescents have the resources to ensure they experience a successful healthcare transition. Explore these resources to support adolescent healthcare transitions.
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Making the transition from pediatric healthcare to adult healthcare can be challenging. Caring adults can help them plan and complete their healthcare transition. https://bit.ly/2Nhe70k @HHSPopAffairs

Content created by Office of Population Affairs
Content last reviewed on September 18, 2019