MU develops program training primary care providers in autism care

9 months 3 weeks 3 days ago May 31, 2016 May 31, 2016 Tuesday, May 31 2016 Tuesday, May 31, 2016 12:22:00 PM CDT in News
By: Amber Sipe, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri is introducing a new program training primary care providers in high quality care for autism spectrum disorders.

According to a news release from the university, Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, or ECHO, Autism is answering a call for a health care system that is equipped and responsible for the complex needs of autism. 

“Currently there are not enough specialists to manage the number of children with autism who need health care,” said Micah Mazurek, assistant professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions and lead author of the study. “A real need exists to assist community-based health care providers as they help families get the answers they need without traveling or waiting to see a specialist."

The news release states that during the pilot program, ECHO Autism showed significant improvements in primary care provider confidence in management and screening of autism and the ability to utilize tools and resources. 

“We are very excited about the initial results from the ECHO Autism model,” said Kristin Sohl, associate professor of child health and the director of ECHO Autism. “Children with autism can show symptoms as early as 12 months; however, in too many cases children may not receive a diagnosis until they are 5 years old. Early diagnosis is critical for children with autism, and primary care providers play an important role in that initial process.”

ECHO Autism uses high-quality secure videoconferencing technology to connect primary care providers to experts at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, according to the news release. The panel of experts includes a pediatrician specializing in ASD, a clinical psychologist, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a dietitian, a social worker and a parent of a child with autism. The release says this allows direct training in diagnosis, screenings, treatment protocols and care management. 

MU's news release states the Autism Intervention Research Network for Physical Health is conducting future research on ECHO Autism and the outreach of the program will extend to 10 additional academic centers, connecting experts with more primary care providers across the US and Canada.

The ECHO model was created by Sanjeev Arora, MD, from the University of New Mexico. He first used it to improve outcomes for hepatitis C and the model has expanded to address other complex medical conditions. MU researchers have developed the first model to be applied to caring for children with autism.

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