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Passing the Healthcare Reins to Your College-Bound Kid

Jill Grimes, MD is prescribing your high school graduate summer homework: it's time for them to take over their own healthcare!

June 16, 2023

High school graduation is in the rearview mirror, and the countdown has begun till your “baby” flies the nest. Are you wracking your brain to see what ounce of parental wisdom you forgot to impart? If so, you’re not alone! As you deal with your own emotional rollercoaster, I’d like to offer a series of topics that I feel are critical conversations to help prepare your teen for their next chapter.

Let’s start today with helping your young adult TAKE CHARGE of their own health care. Up until now, most teens have typically only shown up (or been dragged to) appointments, and their parents took care of getting any prescription medications. College students typically have their first self-directed medical care during an acute illness, injury or anxiety. Imagine trying to navigate new patient insurance and medical forms for the first time while you have a raging fever, uncontrolled vomiting, a painful concussion, or a panic attack! Yes, you can text with them, but it’s so much smoother if they know what is expected.

 

ACTION PLAN: Wade through sample new patient forms together

  1. Today: have your teen use their phone to take a picture of their health insurance card – front and back- and “favorite” this picture so it’s always easily available.
  2. Print out new patient forms from any doctor’s office (easily available online) and have your kid FILL THEM OUT ENTIRELY while sitting next to you.
    • Insurance form: explain which parent is the “insured” (they will need their social security number) and point out the specific name (including HMO/PPO), group number, ID, and claims address
    • Financial policy: “read and sign”
    • Consent to treat: “read and sign”
    • Medical History:
      • Current prescription medications-including ones you only use as needed, like asthma inhalers
      • Allergies to medications- including what the reaction was, if known
      • Illnesses- includes acne, asthma, anxiety, ADHD, etc.
      • Surgeries- Tonsillectomy? Ear tubes? Wisdom Teeth?
      • Family history- most teens have no idea what, if any, medications their parents take,  nor what illnesses run in their families
      • Immunization record- especially your last tetanus shot
  1. Scan or take a PIC of these completed forms to save for future handy reference.

 

 

Additionally, your teen may have more on their medical checklist than you realize.

A summer office visit is strongly suggested (and likely required) if your student:

  • Takes any routine or “as needed” prescription medications
    • They will need enough refills to get through the semester or year
    • Common prescriptions include medications for anxiety or depression, acne, migraine, asthma (inhalers), cold sore antivirals, etc.
    • NOTE that ADHD “controlled substance” medications require special attention– doctors may or may not be able/willing to continue prescribing these if your kid leaves town for college
  • Needs a “college physical” form completed or any immunizations plus be sure you have a fully updated vaccination list (with dates and injections)
  • Wears contact lenses: Check the timing of their annual eye exam so they are allowed enough contact refills for the semester, and please make sure they have back up prescription glasses with the current eyeglass prescription (and do forget to pack them!)
  • Sees a dermatologist: Especially if they are having current treatment with Isotretinoin (formerly known as Accutane)
  • Takes allergy shots: check with the university health services to see if there is an on -campus option for administering the allergy shots vs. finding an allergist in the community; your student will need to discuss this with their current allergist
  • Sees a mental health provider for counseling or prescription medications: Will the provider be willing/able to do telehealth and prescribe medications, especially it’s across state lines? Know that some of the restrictions which were lifted during COVID are returning.
  • Dentist: make sure to get in a routine cleaning this summer and check for any wisdom teeth concerns
  • Orthodontist: If your student still wears a retainer or other orthodontia, don’t forget one last visit before college

 

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ACTION PLAN:

  1. THIS WEEK, have your student book themselves an appointment or two for this summer. Note that doctors’ offices are often swamped in late July/early August, so do not wait till July to book!
  2. Teach your student how order a prescription REFILL (usually just looking at the bottle and calling an automated number) and then have them PICK IT UP (and pay for it) at the pharmacy so they understand the full procedure.
  3. If your student takes any regular prescription medications (especially ADHD meds) and you’ve still been handing them their pills with their breakfast each day, please allow them to be in charge of their own dispensing. (I’m not judging! This is a long-standing habit in many homes, but unless you’re going to be living in the dorm with them, it’s time to pass the baton.)

 

Teach your student how order a prescription REFILL (usually just looking at the bottle and calling an automated number) and then have them PICK IT UP (and pay for it) at the pharmacy so they understand the full procedure. Click To Tweet

 

I know life is busy and there’s the temptation to simply take care of all these tedious healthcare tasks for your high school graduate. However, much like it was faster to tie their toddler shoelaces rather than to painstakingly watch them do it on their own,  I promise you that teaching them these skills this summer will keep your college freshman from tripping over those “untied laces” next year!

  College Student Medical Check List:

  • Medication refills
  • Controlled substance medication plan (ADHD)
  • College Physical Forms
  • Immunizations
  • Ophthalmology checkup for glasses/contacts
  • Dermatologist
  • Allergist
  • Counseling continuity plan
  • Dental/Orthodontist

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

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