Supporting Youth to Adult Health Care Transition

8 Important Tools for a Successful Transition to Adult Healthcare

The transition from pediatric to adult healthcare typically occurs between ages 12 and 26 years. We have identified 8 tools to help guide families and youth through the process.

Adult Providers

Youth who have a pediatrician will need to  transition to an adult provider. Many specialists only see either children or adults.  Start looking for adult providers early, at about age 14.

To prepare for the transition to an adult provider and practice, there are several steps to take.

  1. Know the names of the doctors and reasons for seeing them.
  2. Spend time alone with the pediatrician.
  3. Fill out a checklist to see where you are in the transition process.

When choosing a new provider, ask friends or your pediatrician for suggestions. Building a relationship with a new health care team will take time.


There are lots of decisions that come up in health care. As youth get older, there are healthcare decisions they can begin to make for themselves. To help them learn to make decisions, start offering choices and encourage as much independence as possible starting when they are young.

At ages 12 and 14 youth gain additional rights to privacy. Ask the pediatrician or family practitioner about those rights.

Families can talk about how to handle consent and making decisions as the child gets older. At around age 16, explore supported decision-making as an alternative to guardianship.


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Youth can start by carrying their own insurance cards.  As they become an adult insurance will change.

Consider the options. Some may continue on the family’s plan until 26 and after with special permission. Others may get coverage through a job. Others may receive Medicaid through programs such as BadgerCare Plus or Supplementary Security Income.

Start asking your Children’s Long-term Support Case Manager or contact the Regional Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs or the local Aging and Disability Resource Center.

Emergency Contacts

Save emergency contacts wherever they are easy to find, on a cell phone, a card, or wherever the youth knows to find them. First responders or others present in an emergency need to be able to find them, too.

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Youth can learn to make their own appointments. Start by making a follow up appointment while at the office. To call for an appointment, take it step by step, starting by calling the office. Using a script or other prompts may help make it easier to make the call.

If a youth is comfortable messaging on the computer, then using the digital portal and message system like My Chart may be the best way to communicate with the provider’s office.


Taking medications independently is an important step for youth to take. Weekly pill boxes, blister packets, and other ways to keep them organized are a good way to start.

As much as possible, its also important to know what each medication is for and what they look like.

The next step is ordering and picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy and buying the over the counter medications.

Health Summary

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A Health Summary includes not only the youth’s health and conditions, but also the family medical history. Include medications, past surgeries and hospitalizations, allergies, and other health related information.

About Me

About Me is a story about the youth that describes them for their provider. It might include how they learn, what health conditions they have, and how they make decisions about their health. The About Me includes hobbies, interests, important people in their life, how they best communicate, any phobias, such as for needles, and how a successful visit with a provider would look.

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