For patients on the Autism Spectrum, finding the right balance of treatment and social interventions can be difficult, especially for families located in rural communities. Recent studies have shown that outcomes for these patients improve when telehealth programs are implemented in both the home and clinic-based settings. By increasing this access to care, behavioral triggers can be evaluated more quickly, and family members can receive more comprehensive training on how to support their children.
Limited Access In All Communities
While rural communities tend to have the most difficulty accessing in-person treatment services, there is a national shortage of targeted treatment available for patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Some urban areas boast a few hundred specialists who are tasked to provide services to thousands of clients over vast geographic regions. ABA therapists who do serve rural areas often have to travel substantial distances and lose valuable time that could be dedicated to other clients who are similarly underserved.
Telemedicine Improves Outcomes
The University of Iowa Stead Family and Children’s Hospital has completed two studies on telehealth usage for behavioral interventions in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
A review of services in 2018 focused on observation of children in their home environment. By working with the parents and focusing on behaviors as they were happening, remote therapists were able to provide education and interventional tactics to family members that improved or resolved these behaviors.
The patients were monitored for 9 months. While they were generally located in the home, there were instances where patients presented to a local health clinic or pediatrician to connect. This enabled other treatment providers to participate and provide feedback on the patients’ progress.
Small Study, Big Outcomes
While the most recent review at University of Iowa focused on just 17 families, the numbers show big improvement in the small population. Of the participants, 86 percent noted that telemedicine care resulted in reduced negative behaviors and improvement overall. These results were similar to outcomes with in-person treatment, but they were available to patients without access to that treatment. Furthermore, families and treatment providers reported notable reduction in negative behaviors.
Cutting Costs By A Wide Margin
In 2016, the same program at University of Iowa completed a review of other programs that utilized telemedicine in treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Published in The Journal of Pediatrics, the study revealed that training programs and treatment provided via telemedicine cost, on average, $2,100 over the treatment period. In-person care cost approximately $6,000 per patient. Telemedicine care was delivered into the home environment or into local clinics for a third of the cost of traditional methods with no reported negative impact on outcomes.
Focus On The Family
While the patient was the center of all ABA treatment and common interventions, the focus on family allowed the practitioners to reinforce behavioral modification techniques by educating the family on how to implement them. By watching the patient in his or her natural environment while remaining remote, therapists were able to observe behaviors as the family experienced them and educate on methods to redirect and intervene. Rural families especially benefited from this more consistent access to treatment and support.
Impacting Outcomes, Transportation and Overall Cost
The impact of telemedicine for treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders cannot be overstated. Delivering easily accessible care into homes and local facilities increases access substantially while reducing costs by as much as two thirds. Participants reported similar or improved outcomes and practitioners are able to reach more patients. By working with a simple-to-use technology like Mend, groups can benefit considerably from easy-to-implement and cost-effective telehealth software. For more information on how Mend can help connect patients and providers with just a few taps, click our demo request above.