How Young People Can Own Their Health Care (Even if They Still See a Pediatrician)


If your doctor’s office has a health care portal such as MyChart, you may be able to schedule an appointment online; otherwise, you’ll need to actually call (I know!) and have a calendar handy. (While you’re at it, put your doctor’s name and number in your phone.) If you’re having an urgent health crisis — mental or physical — say so and ask for advice; if it’s after hours, you’ll talk to an answering service who will have the doctor call you back to discuss next steps — going to the emergency room, for example.

And a plea from Dr. Talib: “If my teen patients would actually cancel appointments, I would love that so much — they just don’t show up.” Plus, you can be charged for a missed appointment that you don’t cancel.

Daunted? Don’t be! Call as if you’re making an appointment, then say, “Hi, this is [you]. I was supposed to see Dr. Healthperson on [date], but I need to cancel that appointment.” They’ll likely ask if you’d like to reschedule, and you can take it from there.

If you have a cognitive, physical or developmental difference or disability, then your individualized education program — I.E.P. — or 504 plan may be a useful starting point for figuring out the accommodations you might need to become medically independent.

With some conditions, this can be a lot of work (one friend of ours took a gap year before college to learn to manage his diabetes independently), so transition gradually. Ask a parent to walk you through everything that’s been happening behind the scenes, such as the appointments or labs they routinely schedule, and any prescriptions they’ve been managing. Know what you take and why, how often you need to pick it up, if you have to call the pharmacy first, and if your doctor will need to call in a refill.

Have a parent, doctor, or pharmacist teach you how to read the label on your medication: the number of refills left, the dosage, the possible side effects. And make sure to build in plenty of lead time; you don’t want to end up in the E.R. simply because you, say, forgot to pick up your inhaler.

Any questions? Ask the pharmacist. Dr. Talib describes them as a “wonderful and underutilized resource for taking care of people.”



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