Prepare Insurance, Records, Documents, Prescriptions
As young people head off to college later this summer, many families will plan dorm décor, tuition payments, meal plans and laptops. But like every stage of life, one’s health has the biggest impact on how a person soaks up new opportunities. When a young person moves away for the first time, he or she needs to complete some healthcare appointments and organize certain health-related information. Here’s what I tell my young patients as they prepare to move to college:
1. Get your required and recommended immunizations before your leave. Some will be booster shots and others are especially important for college-age populations who tend to live in close quarters. Unsure what shots you’ve already received? Log onto the State of Wisconsin Immunization Registry and search by your Social Security Number for your life-long immunization record. (This is a great resource anytime you need to share immunization records for study abroad or internship programs, too.) Recommendations for college kids include any required childhood booster shots like Tdap plus an annual influenza shot, meningococcal quadrivalent vaccine, meningococcal B vaccine, and HPV vaccine.
2. Take your health insurance information with you. Ask your parents for a duplicate insurance card, take a picture of your insurance card, or download the secure app for your specific insurance carrier(s) on your phone. Present your group number and subscriber number to the medical receptionist when you seek care.
3. Familiarize yourself with your campus health services. Go online and do some research, and you will most likely be delighted with what you find. Many colleges and universities provide low- or no-cost primary care services on campus (or even in the dorms!) for full-time students with a student ID. You may not need your family’s insurance card at all unless you need services beyond the scope offered on campus.
4. Bring your electronic medical records (EMR) with you. At age 18, children drop off their parents’ online account, so be sure to download the app, such as MyThedaCare, on your phone and set up your own login. If you want, you can set up your parents as a proxy so they can receive test results on your behalf, but that is up to you. When you have a MyThedaCare account, you can even set up an e-Visit with your hometown doctor if you want to reconnect with him or her.
5. Prepare and sign a Power of Attorney for Healthcare when you turn 18. Many families don’t realize this, but Wisconsin is one of 10 states that does not have a next-of-kin law that spells out who will be allowed to speak for you if you are incapacitated by a sudden illness or accident after you reach the age of majority. For example, if you were to be hurt in a bike accident on campus and your doctors deem you unable to make your own healthcare choices (temporarily or long-term), there is a chance your family would have to go to court to make these decisions on your behalf. Choose an agent whom you trust to represent your wishes. This Power of Attorney for Healthcare form is found online at the Fox Valley Advance Care Planning Partnership and includes links to help you with questions. This is the same form for aging and end-of-life issues. It’s free and can be updated anytime. Keep copies for you and your agent and send one to your hometown healthcare provider to put on file, or ask the Advance Care Planning people to help you.
6. Set up your prescription refills with a mail order or local pharmacy, but not both. If you take daily medications, contact your hometown pharmacy to mail them to you on a regular schedule. If you decide to get your prescriptions refilled in your college town, especially if your meds cannot be mailed (as in the case of most meds for ADD/ADHD), be sure to move all of your prescriptions to one pharmacy. When you have more than one pharmacy (called polypharmacy), it’s difficult for your pharmacist to track all the meds you take and detect possible drug interactions or other concerns.
When I hear about young people headed off to college, I am excited for all they will discover and experience. My wish is for young patients to stay safe and always feel comfortable about asking their healthcare providers for help or advice. We truly care about you!