BACKGROUND: Approximately 750 000 children in the United States with special health care needs will transition from pediatric to adult care annually. Fewer than half receive adequate transition care.
METHODS: We had conversations with key informants representing clinicians who provide transition care, pediatric and adult providers of services for individuals with special health care needs, policy experts, and researchers; searched online sources for information about currently available programs and resources; and conducted a literature search to identify research on the effectiveness of transition programs.
RESULTS: We identified 25 studies evaluating transition care programs. Most (n = 8) were conducted in populations with diabetes, with a smaller literature (n = 5) on transplant patients. We identified an additional 12 studies on a range of conditions, with no more than 2 studies on the same condition. Common components of care included use of a transition coordinator, a special clinic for young adults in transition, and provision of educational materials.
CONCLUSIONS: The issue of how to provide transition care for children with special health care needs warrants further attention. Research needs are wide ranging, including both substantive and methodologic concerns. Although there is widespread agreement on the need for adequate transition programs, there is no accepted way to measure transition success. It will be essential to establish consistent goals to build an adequate body of literature to affect practice.