Essential tips for transitioning a child with birth injuries from pediatric to adult healthcare, ensuring they continue receiving crucial medical treatments.
As children with birth injuries grow and develop, their healthcare needs change, requiring different types of support and services. The transition of care from pediatrics to adulthood can be a complex and challenging process, and it requires careful planning, coordination and communication between the child, their parents and their healthcare providers.
A poorly managed healthcare transition can result in gaps in care, increased healthcare costs and reduced quality of life. So it’s essential that parents and healthcare providers work together to plan and execute a successful transition that meets the unique needs of each child with a birth injury.
What does a pediatric-to-adult healthcare transition entail?
The transition process generally involves transferring the child’s care needs from a pediatric medical team to a team accustomed to treating adults. Transitions commonly begin with coordinated efforts and planning between the current healthcare providers and the child and their family.
The benefits of a successful healthcare transition
A successful transition from pediatric to adult healthcare for children with birth injuries can have numerous benefits, including:
- Continuity of care. By transitioning to adult healthcare smoothly, children with birth injuries can receive continuous, uninterrupted care, which is critical for maintaining their health and well-being.
- Access to medical specialists. As children with birth injuries become adults, their healthcare needs may change, and they may require the expertise of different medical specialists. A successful transition can help to ensure that they have access to the appropriate medical professionals who can address their unique needs.
- Improved self-management skills. As children with birth injuries become adults, they must take on greater responsibility for managing their healthcare needs. A successful transition can help them develop the necessary self-management skills to take an active role in their healthcare.
- Reduced healthcare costs. A well-coordinated transition can help to reduce healthcare costs by preventing unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency room visits and ensuring that the child receives appropriate care in a timely manner.
- Improved quality of life. By receiving the appropriate care and support, children with birth injuries can lead fulfilling lives as adults, with improved physical and mental health, greater independence, and increased opportunities for education, employment and social participation.
How families can prepare to transition from pediatric to adult healthcare
The process of transitioning your child from pediatric to adult healthcare is a coordinated effort that should start well before they actually reach adulthood. Below are some steps you should begin taking based on your child’s age.
From ages 12-13
- Determine at what age your child must transition to adult medical care services.
- Begin talking to your child about their health condition, health history and medication needs.
- Encourage your child to ask questions pertaining to their health and care.
From ages 14-15
- Encourage your teen to assume some responsibility for their health insurance card, such as keeping it in a safe place and bringing it to medical appointments.
- Encourage your teen to make their own medical appointments (under your supervision) and take responsibility for informing you when their medications need to be refilled.
- Allow them to attend a medical appointment without you being in the room the entire time.
From ages 16-17
- Begin assessing if you think your child is capable of making independent medical decisions.
- Be more proactive about getting them to make and attend medical appointments alone.
- Encourage them to ask their doctor questions and refill their own medications over the phone or internet without your direct assistance.
From ages 18-21
- At this time, a child is considered to be a legal adult and may assume responsibility for their medical care. This means that parents of competent children can no longer acquire medical information or attend appointments unless agreed to by the young adult or certain legal documents have been filed and approved.
- Encourage your child to ask their pediatric doctor for a recommendation for an adult doctor to assume their care.
- Determine how insurance may change and affect your child’s access to medical care and treatments.
- When choosing an adult healthcare provider, ensure that their current insurance coverage is accepted while determining charges per visit.
From ages 22-25
- Encourage your adult child to continue receiving regular medical care and maintain their medical records.
- Make sure your adult child understands that if their insurance policy or company changes, they must verify that the coverage is acceptable with their healthcare provider before attending appointments.
Potential barriers to successful healthcare transitions
Several barriers can prevent a successful transition from pediatric to adult healthcare for children with birth defects. They include the following:
- Difficulty breaking bonds. Families and their adult children may have difficulty breaking the bond that develops after receiving years of treatment from the same team.
- Lack of healthcare provider coordination. A lack of coordination between pediatricians and adult healthcare providers can lead to a lack of continuity, making it difficult for children to transition smoothly.
- Insufficient preparation and planning. Families and healthcare providers may not sufficiently prepare for the transition, which can lead to confusion, anxiety and a lack of understanding about the child’s healthcare needs.
- Limited availability of adult healthcare providers. Children with complex medical needs may require specialized care that is not readily available in the community, making it difficult to find appropriate adult healthcare providers for them.
- Lack of insurance coverage. In some cases, the transition to adult healthcare may be complicated by a lack of insurance coverage, especially for children who have aged out of public insurance programs.
- Communication challenges. When the child begins assuming responsibility for their own medical care, communication challenges between healthcare providers, families and patients can make it difficult to fully understand the child’s healthcare needs, resulting in a lack of appropriate support and care.
- Inability to manage own care. Despite physically maturing, adult children with birth injuries may not have the emotional or cognitive maturity needed to make decisions, acquire or comply with medical care needs or maintain adequate records.
- Parental resistance. In some cases, even when the adult child is maturing and displaying competence, parents resist allowing them to develop independence.
Possible consequences of poor healthcare transitions
The most significant consequence of a poor pediatric-to-adult healthcare transition is the adult patient not having access to the healthcare and treatments they need, which could lead to worsening health and medical complications. Additionally, without adequate planning and information gathering, families may also find that adult care is more financially challenging.
Tips for ensuring a successful pediatric-to-adult healthcare transition
Below are some tips for planning a successful healthcare transition for your child:
- Start the planning process early. Begin planning the transition before your child reaches puberty. Consult with your child’s healthcare team to determine the ideal transition age.
- Understand your child’s individual needs. Use a self-care assessment to determine your child’s understanding of their condition and their readiness to begin assuming responsibility.
- Develop an emergency plan. Ensure the child has the appropriate medical alert identification. Always have insurance information ready, along with a list of diagnoses, medications and medical contacts.
- Determine legal competency or concerns. Determine your child’s competency, as well as their legal, financial and medical power of attorney responsibilities and guardianship, if needed.
- Work with a team of professionals. Families, medical providers, school administrators and vocational specialists should collaborate on and refine the plan as needed.
Consult a birth injury attorney
A successful transition from pediatric to adult healthcare is essential for ensuring that children with birth injuries receive the appropriate care and support they need to thrive as adults. Unfortunately, this care is often expensive and may be needed throughout your child’s life.
Seeking compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit can help you pay for the long-term medical and rehabilitation needs of your child and ensure they have the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.
If you believe your child suffered a birth injury because of a doctor’s medical negligence, contact attorney Laura Brown at Brown Trial Firm. Laura has years of experience in birth injury law, helping families like yours all across the U.S. get the compensation they deserve.
Contact her today for a free consultation of your case.
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