UPMC Physician: Navigating Healthcare as a Young Adult | Life


Our teens and early twenties are a pivotal time of change in our lives. Young adults are simultaneously in transition educationally or professionally, legally, socially and emotionally.

Young adults take on the responsibilities of becoming an adult and navigating through life, and managing health and wellness is a big piece of the puzzle of life. From updating your health insurance plan to finding doctors in the network and scheduling appointments, staying healthy can seem overwhelming. However, young adults should not go it alone and support is available to help you find your way.

own your health

Once you turn 18, you are legally responsible for your own care and, unless you agree, your parents cannot access medical information or attend doctor visits. As parents, encouraging your child’s early involvement in their own care helps them feel more comfortable making their own decisions when the time comes.

Transition is a process that begins in early adolescence by partnering with patients and families to prepare them for adult care. Throughout these years, good communication between patients and providers is essential. It’s not all about the patient and their family either. Pediatric care providers also play a role in ensuring a smooth handover to their successors and supporting their patients through change.

The primary care provider is the key to wellness management

Your biggest partner on your journey is your primary care provider. Finding a new primary care physician as a young adult can be overwhelming. This is especially the case if you recently left your parent’s insurance plan and need a medical professional you can trust. After years of relying on a pediatrician with intimate knowledge of your medical history, it can be difficult to navigate the many options for new doctors.

There are plenty of primary care doctors around, and finding the right one can seem like an overwhelming task. The best way to start is to ask your friends and family for recommendations. You might find the same name or the practice keeps coming back. If you already have a trusted family doctor, ask for a referral.

Once you have a few names, it’s important to check which doctors are part of your health insurance “network” — or who accepts your insurance plan. To do this, you can often call the office and ask. You can also use online directories to start your search.

Schedule a visit

The best way to confirm if a new doctor is right for you is to schedule an in-person visit. When you make an appointment, either by phone or through an online portal, let the office staff know that you are looking for a new provider and want to discuss your expectations.

During the appointment, get a sense of the atmosphere in the office and confirm that you are comfortable with all the staff. Discuss your medical history, medications, and future concerns and confirm that the provider meets your requirements.

This first appointment is a great opportunity for a good visit. Just as it sounds, the well visit is your chance to talk to your provider when you’re not sick. You can feel “great” and still have underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol, prediabetes, or suspicious moles. These conditions, if discovered early, can be managed before they turn into larger chronic health problems.

Once you are sure of your provider choice, talk to them about the recommended screenings and tests. Many screenings take place every year, such as blood pressure, heart and lung function, and gynecological exams, or at other regular intervals, such as cholesterol and blood sugar. Your provider may also have recommendations for vaccinations, including flu, tetanus, measles, mumps, HPV, and hepatitis A and B, ensuring you are up to date and protected.

As a young adult, your health may be the last thing on your mind. However, the time you spend today can put you on the path to a happier, healthier life. Your primary care provider is your partner in any health goal and we’re here to offer suggestions to improve your overall health and give you resources to help you start and maintain healthy habits, now and through all the future stages of life.

Michelle Cavanaugh, MD, sees patients at UPMC Susquehanna Health, Family Practice in Duboistown, 145 Shaffer Street, Williamsport. To make an appointment with Dr. Cavanaugh, call (570) 326-2447. For more information, visit UPMC.com/PrimaryCareNCPA.

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