Accessing specialists who can help accurately diagnose and provide medication management for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be challenging, particularly for individuals living in rural or underserved areas. ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction and behavior. Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial for improving outcomes and managing symptoms for individuals with ASD.
eConsults offer a potential solution to this challenge by giving patients and healthcare providers access to specialists from anywhere. eConsults can enable specialists to review patient information, provide guidance and support to primary care providers, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure patients receive appropriate testing and medication management.
eConsults can also help increase efficiency in the diagnostic process by reducing wait times for appointments and enabling specialists to review patient information more quickly and accurately. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics earlier this year reported that pediatricians diagnose ASD successfully in almost all cases. While the study did not address the diagnostic performance of general practitioners, using eConsult can support early diagnosis and help reduce the likelihood of misdiagnosis or missed diagnoses, which can have significant consequences for patients and their families.
Tools for Diagnosis & Medication Management
1. Improve Access to Specialists
While child psychiatrists, pediatric neurologists or developmental pediatricians can diagnose autism, these physicians are often difficult to access. There are several factors that impact access to diagnosis and treatment for patients with ASD:
- Excessive appointment wait times
- Shortage of physicians
- Long distances to access providers
- Cost of care
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that every state has a shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists, and 38 states have a severe shortage. For patients and families seeking a pediatric neurologist, about a third of clinics reported wait times of 16 weeks. Distance is a significant factor when patients seek developmental pediatricians. The average distance to access a developmental pediatrician exceeds 40 miles in 18 states. Even in states with an average travel distance of 20 miles, the maximum distance can exceed 100 miles. In Pennsylvania, the average patient will travel only 20 miles to see a developmental pediatrician. Yet, some patients will face a travel distance of 105 miles. Finally, the cost of care remains a challenge. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 80% of patients find cost a barrier to receiving care.
With eConsults, pediatricians and primary care providers can access specialists from anywhere, reducing the time and cost of travel. eConsults can also help reduce wait times for appointments by validating the diagnosis in the primary care setting.
2. Provide Faster Care
eConsults can help improve the efficiency and speed of diagnosis by offering specialist advice about appropriate testing for patients with symptoms of ASD. Since time, cost and distance are a barrier for patients and families to access care, eConsults offer rapid assistance to local physicians to support medication management. A remote child psychiatrist, pediatric neurologist or developmental pediatrician can review a patient’s medical history, developmental milestones and symptoms – saving time and reducing the likelihood of misdiagnosis. This can ensure that patients receive timely and appropriate care.
3. Enable Better Communication and Collaboration
eConsults can also facilitate the sharing of information among healthcare professionals, enabling them to collaborate and coordinate care more effectively. Follow-up questions are automatically routed to the consulting specialist. In addition, eConsults from AristaMD often include guidance for caregivers to help alleviate symptoms like insomnia, aggression and lack of appetite. Approximately 13% of eConsults include follow-up communication between the requesting physician and the eConsult specialist. In addition, 18% of patients receive multiple eConsults.* These figures demonstrate how eConsult specialists can provide ongoing guidance and support to primary care providers and their patients. Collaboration between the primary care provider and the eConsult specialist can help patients and their families better understand their condition, treatment options and how to manage their symptoms.
*AristaMD eConsult data