Pediatricians are children’s medicine specialists, treating kids at all stages of life, from newborns to adolescents. Your pediatrician may even develop into a trusted family friend, having helped your child through common childhood illnesses, injuries from school sports, and even the awkwardness of puberty. Parents tend to select their children’s pediatrician carefully, so it can be a bit nerve-wracking when you feel it may be time to move on to a primary care physician that treats older children and adults.
How old is too old to see a pediatrician? The fact is that there is no definite answer. Instead, you should consider several factors before transitioning your child from their pediatrician to a primary care physician.
The specifics of your health insurance coverage may dictate the timing of your switch from your pediatrician. Some insurance plans mandate that a child must change to a primary care provider for adults, like a family medicine practitioner or an internist, at the age of 18. Other plans extend this age to 21. Some plans allow young adults to continue to see a pediatrician for even longer, but with the caveat that the patient must be an active student enrolled in college.
Fortunately, there are also many insurance plans that have no restrictions on how long your child can visit their pediatrician. As long as your pediatrician allows it, these plans permit your child to see their childhood doctor indefinitely. Check your coverage details or call your insurance company to find out the rules of your health insurance plan.
If you have a young child, chances are you are not yet thinking about when to transition from their pediatrician, but it is worth checking into your pediatrician’s policies. Some pediatricians will not treat patients above a certain age, while others are happy to continue to act as primary care physicians to their patients into adulthood. By knowing your pediatrician’s policies in advance, you can begin to prepare now for the eventual change.
It is often easiest to have your entire family’s healthcare provided by the same physician when that opportunity exists. Not only is it more convenient to only travel to a single location, but the added benefits are that you only need to be familiar with one office’s policies and procedures, and you’ll have your family’s medical records managed within the same system. For these reasons, it frequently makes sense to have your family members receive their medical care from the same family medicine doctor.
Perhaps an older sibling has outgrown their pediatrician and wants to move to a doctor that supports young adults. Or maybe you have a pre-teen or early teen going through puberty who wants to switch to an adult doctor, but still needs a physician with expertise in child growth and development. With a family medicine physician supporting a broader age range of patients, these possible catalysts would signal an optimal time to switch your family over to a family medicine doctor and access your entire healthcare at one convenient site. At PACT, we care for patients anywhere from post-vaccination age all the way to end of life.
If your child has seen the same pediatrician for several years, they have established a strong rapport with one another. A good doctor/patient relationship is invaluable, and you should not be too quick to change this by moving to a new doctor against your child’s wishes. That said, nothing lasts forever, and if you sincerely believe it is time to move on, first speak with both your pediatrician and your child about the transition.
On the other hand, older children and adolescents may bring up a possible change in physicians on their own. It can be galling for a teenager to sit in a waiting room surrounded by young children, lollipops, and cartoon decorations. If your adolescent wants a “grown-up” doctor, then it is probably time to start considering internal medicine specialists or family doctors.
Many adolescents leave home to attend college, and this departure presents an excellent opportunity to transition away from their pediatrician. If their college or university is a considerable distance away, it will not be convenient for them to see their previous doctor. They should establish care with a new primary care provider near their school, and this change will allow them to choose a doctor who treats adults. This article provides tips on how they can find a primary care physician that is right for them.
Some children with chronic illnesses see a pediatric subspecialist more frequently than a general pediatrician. For example, a kid with cystic fibrosis may see a pediatric pulmonologist, and a child who has type I diabetes may often visit a pediatric endocrinologist. Many times, these subspecialists will permit their patients to continue to follow with them long after childhood – sometimes well into their twenties. If your child is in this situation, speak with their pediatric specialist to learn their policies on patient age restrictions. But even if they continue to follow with a pediatric subspecialist, they can still change their primary care doctor to a doctor for adults.
When it is time to make the change, PACT has many convenient, board-certified family medicine and internal medicine specialists in the New Haven, CT region. For a complete list of PACT board-certified family medicine specialists in Connecticut, please click here.