At some point your child will need to make the move from pediatric to adult rheumatologist. It may happen when she graduates from high school or college. It may happen when she reaches a certain cut-off age, usually 18 or 21, established by the doctor. It may even happen sooner – when your teenager becomes uncomfortable sitting in a pediatric office with little kids. Regardless of when the transition occurs or is planned, here are some tips for making that shift a smooth and safe one.
Plan ahead. You know the change is coming. Speak with your pediatric rheumatologist and take advantage of the time to plan. Chances are you’ll have several rheumatologists in your area to choose from. What factors does your child consider most important – a young doctor? A male or female doctor? A doctor who is close to home? Ask your pediatric rheumatologist if he or she can recommend a doctor and help you schedule an appointment. Is this a good point in your child’s disease process to change doctors?
Check with your insurance. If your child’s pediatric rheumatologist recommends a doctor, ask your child to check if he or she is on your insurance plan. If not, suggest that your child share a list of covered rheumatologists with her pediatric rheumatologist. This step introduces your child to the reality that much of health care is ruled by insurance.
Wait until the disease is controlled. If your child is in the midst of a flare or beginning a new biologic, now is not the time to make the change. Experts recommend waiting until the disease is stable, particularly if your child has a disease such as lupus with risk of organ involvement.
Don’t be afraid to go back. After your child’s first appointment with the new rheumatologist, it’s important to go back to the pediatric rheumatologist at least once to help ensure a smooth transition. Also, keep in touch with your child’s former doctor to report on your child’s progress.