EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — There comes a time when our children need to transition from a pediatrician to a primary care doctor, but when is the right time to make that switch?

Every young adult eventually outgrows their pediatrician. When to make the switch depends on both the young adult and the pediatric practice but in one local healthcare system, a new policy outlines the timeline for the transition from pediatric care to primary care.

When children are born, choosing the right pediatrician is a big decision for parents.

“One of the greatest things about pediatrics is watching kids grow up knowing them from being small and then seeing their successes see how they’re doing as they’re getting older. It’s a bitter-sweet time to say goodbye,” stated Dr. Karen Ephlin, a pediatrician at Geisinger.

Dr. Karen Ephlin is a pediatrician with Geisinger Health System and has been treating children for the past 17 years. That goodbye depends on the patient’s circumstances.

“They start to develop adult medical problems or medical issues that aren’t under what we’re trained to do, so it may be a good time around 18 to start thinking about transitioning out of pediatrics,” explained Dr. Ephlin.

Transitioning starts with a discussion with your pediatrician ….and at Geisinger, a transition team is ready to make the move a smooth one, even for patients with special needs.

“We do have a special needs clinic so they help coordinate all of the subspecialties so they can help them transition, said Ephlin.

Although Geisinger’s new policy states, that patients are expected to transition from its pediatrics department to a primary care doctor beginning at the age of 18, Dr. Ephlin admits she’s in no rush.

To help make a smooth transition you should:

  • Starting the discussion early a year in advance is recommended
  • Encourage your child to self-manage their health care needs, for instance, if a child has asthma let them carry their own inhaler starting at age 12
  • If your teen takes regular medication, help them learn independence in taking their meds and also calling in refills.
    • Also, make sure they know the names, doses, and why they are taking the medicine.
  • Make sure your child is aware of their allergies.
  • Ask about transferring your child’s health records.

Along with health records, the new doctor needs the last few notes in the records including the last physical.

Make sure your child knows their medical history. Finally, ask if your pediatrician is willing to reach out to a new primary care doctor to do a warm handoff.