As an increasing number of patients with chronic conditions of childhood survive to adulthood, experts recommend that young adults with chronic conditions transfer from child-focused to adult-focused primary care. Little, however, is known about how comfortable physicians are caring for this population.
To assess the comfort of general internists and general pediatricians in treating young adult patients with chronic illnesses originating in childhood as well as the factors associated with comfort.
In a random sample, 1288 of 2434 eligible US general internists and pediatricians completed a mailed survey (response rate = 53%).
We measured respondents’ comfort level in providing primary care for a patient with sickle cell disease (SCD) or cystic fibrosis (CF). We also measured levels of disease familiarity, training and subspecialty support, as well as individual physician characteristics.
Fifteen percent of general internists reported being comfortable as the primary care provider for adults with CF and 32% reported being comfortable providing primary care for adults with SCD, compared with 38% of pediatricians for CF (<.001) and 35% for SCD (>0.05). Less than half of general internists felt that their specialty should take primary care responsibility for adult patients with CF and SCD.
A majority of general internists and pediatricians are not comfortable providing primary care for young adults with chronic illnesses of childhood origin, such as CF and SCD. Efforts to increase treatment comfort among providers may help with the transition to adult-focused care for the growing numbers of young adults with complex chronic conditions.
KEY WORDS: transitional care, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, young adults, adolescents, children with special health care needs, primary care, childhood diseases, health care transitions