How to help teens manage their own healthcare

Teen healthcare header image Tuesday, March 12, 2019

As teens gets older, they are likely to have more opinions about medical care and increased need for privacy. You can continue to support your children while encouraging them to start taking control of their healthcare. 

When children turn 13 (18 in Alaska), they will need to set up their own Premera online member account. They can also install the app on their phones.

Not every teen is ready to take responsibility for everything the day after they turn 13. You can help while still respecting your child's need for privacy. Encourage them to be more involved in their healthcare visits.

Step 1: Help your teen take charge of preventive care

Preventive care at an annual checkup is still important for teens. But what happens at that checkup does change.

Three ways that “well child” checkups might change, starting at about age 16:

  1. The doctor expects the teen to understand and OK tests and treatments.
  2. The teen should speak up with questions and input about their own health.
  3. The teen may spend time talking with the doctor or nurse alone, without a parent present. They may talk in private about:
    • Depression and other mental health conditions teens often struggle with
    • Birth control and disease prevention 
    • Drug or alcohol use

Teens can begin to get involved in preventive visits by:

  1. Making a list of questions to ask the doctor or nurse.
  2. Bringing medications and supplements they are taking to the appointment.
  3. Bringing any school forms needed for medications or sports participation.
  4. Taking notes at the appointment to remember what the doctor says.

Step 2: Help your teen take responsibility for maintaining health and healthcare

6 things you can expect a teen to start learning how to do themselves:

  1. Take medications on time.
  2. Fill or refill prescriptions.
  3. Know what health plan covers them and what it covers, or how to find out.
  4. Know names and contact information for doctors, clinics, and emergency contacts.
  5. Program emergency contacts into her or his smartphone.
  6. Know how to decide between calling the doctor or 24-hour Nurseline, going to urgent care, and going to the ER.

Step 3: Help your teen's transition to adult primary care

When your child becomes a legal adult at 18, they can get care from an adult primary care physician. To stay with a familiar provider, they may continue to see their pediatrician into their 20s. But they'll need their own adult care provider.

Five ways you can help ease their transition to adult care:

  1. Encourage them to identify the characteristics and location of the person they will want to see.
  2. Tell them about the range of providers they can choose. That includes nurse practitioners and naturopaths as well as family physicians and internists.
  3. Ask your pediatrician for referrals.
  4. Show your child how to use the Find a Doctor tool. They can use this tool to find in-network primary care doctors when they sign in to or the Premera mobile app.
  5. Ask your doctor to discuss specific tests and checkups your young adult may need. Check a list of covered preventive benefits in your account and by selecting Preventive Benefits.

For suggestions about how to help your adult child find the right doctor, see How to find the right doctor for you.

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