Every year, approximately 50,000 people with autism turn 18-years-old and transition to adult health care. In an effort to increase access to community-based primary care physicians and practitioners (PCPs), who are well-equipped to deliver best-practice autism care, Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Missouri developed a program that enhances provider expertise to meet the unique needs of this population.
With funding from a Department of Defense grant, ECHO Autism: Adult Healthcare launched a six-month pilot study in November 2020 with 20 participating PCPs across the United States. An interdisciplinary panel of world-renowned autism experts, including a Neurologist & Autism Specialist, Vanderbilt University; Med-Peds Physician & Autism Medical Specialist, Florida International University College of Medicine; private practice Clinical Psychologist & Autism Behavior Specialist, Chicago, Illinois; Neurologist & Autism Specialist, University of Washington Medicine; Psychiatrist & Autism Behavior Specialist, Yale School of Medicine; and the mother of a child with autism & Family Navigator, Nationwide Children’s Hospital came together twice, monthly with community-based PCPs to discuss de-identified patient cases. By utilizing the ECHO model®, expert panelists mentored and coached PCPs on how to manage the medical and psychiatric conditions of their autistic patients and how to connect them to evidence-based autism resources, services, and supports. Two additional experts served on the team, adding an invaluable perspective- lived experience of being a person with autism. One of the self-advocates is a Professor of Special Education at Adelphi University. The other expert is a Physicist & Associate Director at Vanderbilt Center for Autism and Innovation and brings a dual perspective, as he is also a father to children with autism. Having an autistic person and/or a family member of child with autism represented on each ECHO Autism expert hub team is a hallmark of the program.
Currently, pilot study results are being analyzed and the team is gearing up for the launch of a new cohort in November 2021. Recruitment is open to PCPs who serve adults, including physicians (family practice, internal medicine, osteopathic or naturopathic doctors), advanced practice nurses, or physician assistants. TeleECHO sessions will be held on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month at 1:00 eastern time, starting November 4 and will run through April 2022. If you are interested in joining, contact Janet Shouse, study coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.