For many young people, transitioning from a pediatrician to an adult doctor can be a bewildering and overwhelming process. Often it's left to the last minute, but one of the worst ways to choose a doctor is to wait until you're sick. There are ways you, as a parent, can help.

Transitioning to a Grown Up Doctor

When it comes to choosing a physician, particularly a gynecologist, you may have to take the initiative to start the conversation. If your family has always used a family physician, then changing doctors may be unnecessary. However, if your children always saw a pediatrician, find out to what age he or she continues to see patients. Many pediatricians don't see patients after age 21.

(Some have an even earlier cut-off, and others will continue seeing patients until age 24 or so, especially if they have a chronic illness that needs to be closely managed like cystic fibrosis or diabetes — sometimes it can be a little tougher to find an internist to take on a high-maintenance patient.)

Best case scenario is to set you child up with a doctor before they leave home. Next best is to keep bringing up the subject until you are confident the task has been accomplished.

How to Choose a Doctor

Here are some good things to keep in mind when choosing a doctor at any age.

  • Make sure the physician accepts his or her insurance. Obtain a list of providers from their insurer, and check to see which doctors are accepting new patients. Review the plan carefully for any restrictions.
     
  • If a good temperament is essential, suggest scheduling an informational interview so she can get a glimpse of the physician's personality. Feeling comfortable enough to discuss your health concerns is paramount. While there, take stock of how the office is run. What's the staff like? Are they surly or professional? A great bedside manner may not make up for a frantic office atmosphere, a staff that treats you like a number, or long waits due to gross over-bookings.
     
  • Is gender important? How about race, or speaking a particular language? Be honest. Some women may prefer a female gynecologist, but the gender of their family physician may be irrelevant. Sharing similar values (religious, secular, political) can be nice, especially if feeling like your values actually matter is important.
     
  • Logistics do have a role to play. Is it an office he or she can reach easily by car or public transport? A physician near his office may not be of much help when he's home sick and work is an hour commute away. Don't forget to ask about hospital affiliation. The hospital where your doctor can admit patients should also be within a workable distance for your kid. (This may also be their closest emergency room as well.)
     
  • If your adult child is uninsured, his or her choices will be limited. Approximately, 30% of young adults under age 26 are uninsured. As part of the health care reform law, if you have health insurance your daughter can remain on your plan until age 26, or be added to it. If this isn't feasible, don't be afraid to call several doctors' offices and ask if they offer a discount for cash payments or have a sliding fee scale. To find a free health care clinic, try FreeMedicalCamps.com.
     
  • Ask friends, family, and co-workers for recommendations; pass the names along to your son or daughter. Suggest he or she ask around as well.
     
  • Check the physician's background; see if they're board-certified — this means the physician successfully completed extensive training after medical school, passed an evaluation process, and passed a rigorous licensing exam. You can check a physician's credentials by using the American Medical Association's DoctorFinder. It offers professional information about practically every licensed physician in the U.S. To make an informed choice, visit the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or the website of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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