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Access to Care After Autism Diagnosis During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Quality Improvement Project

HumanInsight Access to Care After Autism Diagnosis During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Quality Improvement Project

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2022 Dec 16. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000001146. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to identify barriers and improve access to services for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: Sixty-two patients diagnosed with ASD between March 23 and June 30, 2020, at a large urban safety net hospital were identified by chart review. Patients were called from January to March 2021 and queried regarding access to services. Brief interventions were provided as part of a modified Plan-Do-Study-Act approach. A second chart review was conducted between April and May 2021 to determine whether families accessed any additional services.

RESULTS: At the time of initial evaluation, 12 patients (19%) had been able to access all recommended services, 32 (52%) had been able to access some recommended services, and 9 (15%) were not able to access any services. Service levels for 9 families (15%) were undetermined. Sixteen patients (26%) lacked any follow-up with their developmental behavioral pediatrician since their initial evaluation. Thirty patients (48%) reported changes to their individualized educational program or early intervention services, and 17 patients (27%) were receiving in-home applied behavior analysis. After the brief intervention, 13 patients had accessed new services, and 9 patients previously lost to follow-up had completed an appointment.

CONCLUSION: Patients diagnosed with ASD in the spring of 2020 had significant difficulty accessing community services. The transition to telemedicine exacerbated this hospital's difficulty contacting patients for follow-up. Additional research is needed to fully characterize the disruptions to services experienced by patients diagnosed with ASD during the pandemic and to increase accessibility and equity of care.

PMID:36729474 | DOI:10.1097/DBP.0000000000001146

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