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Transitioning Your Medical Care: Diabetes

What Does it Mean to Transition Health Care?

If you have diabetes, a pediatric (childhood) endocrinologist is probably directing your medical care. That doctor and the diabetes health care team have been there to support you and your family.

Your parents have likely played a big part in your medical care, and that's great. But after you turn 18, they may not be able to see your medical records or talk about your health with your doctor — even if you want them to.

"Transition of care" means shifting your health care to an adult medical practice. But who takes care of you is just one part of this change. It also means learning how to take charge of your own health and handle every aspect of your care — from filling out insurance forms to understanding and making decisions about treatments.

Now is a good time to begin looking into moving from your pediatric specialist to doctors who treat adults. Your diabetes care team should be able to guide you, but here are some good things to know.

When Should Teens With Diabetes Transition to Adult Care?

It depends on the person, but most teens with diabetes should move to adult health care when they're between 18 and 21. That's when many become independent from their parents, go to college, or move away from home.

How Can I Prepare to Transition to Adult Care?

To help you with this transition:

  • Learn all you can about diabetes and its symptoms.
  • Know how to handle diabetes when you're sick or need to make changes to the diabetes management plan.
  • Know the names of all your diabetes medicines, their dosages, and when to take them. Learn about common side effects and interactions with other medicines.
  • Be able to answer most questions about your health and medical history .
  • Know what to do in an emergency.
  • Know why it's important to follow the treatment plan.
  • Understand your health insurance coverage and carry that information with you.

You also should learn how to:

  • schedule medical appointments
  • order prescription refills
  • contact your diabetes care team
  • deal with device problems (if you use things such as insulin pumps and blood glucose monitors)

What Should I Do Before Going to College or Living on My Own?

Before moving away from home, be sure that you:

  • Have copies of your medical records, including medicines, allergies, immunizations, testing, and your endocrinologist's and primary care provider's names and phone numbers.
  • Find an endocrinologist close to where you'll be living.

If you're headed to college, contact:

  • the student health services staff to coordinate care with your current endocrinologist and help you find a new specialist near your campus
  • the Office of Disability Services and talk to your professors about any needed accommodations and an academic plan in case of illness

If you have a job, tell your employer how diabetes might affect your work.

How Can I Find a Doctor Who Specializes in Diabetes?

To find an adult doctor who specializes in diabetes:

  • Ask your current health care provider for a list of endocrinologists in the area where you'll be living.
  • Go to the websites or contact local chapters of diabetes groups, such as the American Diabetes Association.

What Else Should I Know?

You know you need to switch from a pediatric to an adult endocrinologist. But it's also important to find an adult primary care provider for your non-diabetes health care needs. This could be an internist, family medicine specialist, or nurse practitioner. He or she should work with your endocrinologist, as needed.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date Reviewed: Apr 3, 2018

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