How Telemedicine is Improving Healthcare Services for People with Autism

By Rory Jovie

Even though the pandemic has increased its profile, telehealth has been growing in recent years. Indeed, the global telehealth market is set to reach $167.2 billion by 202, growing by 21.4% every year. And although telehealth has its uses across multiple fields, autism patients will gain a lot from it in the coming years. This is evident through the research into autism that has highlighted the growing demand for telehealth services across the community.

Telemedicine, or the use of remote clinical healthcare services, is the biggest contributor to telehealth’s success; it’s also the service that’s often used by autism patients and their families. So, let’s take a look at some of its contributions.

Easy access to autism care

The biggest benefit of telemedicine is the ability to get quality care from the comfort of your own home. This is especially helpful for families with autistic family members, as research has emphasized how there’s an ongoing shortage for those that specialize in autistic patients.

Fortunately, universities and colleges are working hard to meet this demand by creating online programs that allow people to specialize in the key fields related to autism, such as pediatric services and developmental studies. For example, online pediatric programs include the best approaches to support autistic children, so doctors can provide the best possible care. In a similar manner, nurses who take online BSN programs are taught fundamentals in family assessment — they’re also given a background in other important fields like psychology, which helps families come to terms with the emotional strain the disability has on the whole family. Students can even choose to specialize in a particular field in the autism spectrum, like developmental disability, and take classes that will enhance their ability to care for these particular patients.

To find the best telemedicine service that can cater to your or to a family member suffering from autism, advocacy organizations such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and United Spinal Association can point you in the right direction.

Early screening for autism

Autism manifests itself in multiple ways, from a difficulty in making friends to full-blown meltdowns. Without a proper diagnosis of what the patient’s autism spectrum is, situations can often cause a lot of misunderstandings and difficult behaviors, which could prove distressing for the whole family.

However, there are still many undiagnosed patients around the world. There are two reasons for this: the shortage of autistic specialists as mentioned before (which is solved because of remote access) and hefty testing costs. For example, a typical autism diagnosis screening can cost you up to $1,200. This includes the testing kit, clinical application fees, and billable administrative hours. While there’s little to be done for the first one, the second and third fees can be reduced on a telemedicine platform. After all, a physical check-up can cost you up to $200, but telehealth platforms like Doctor on Demand costs around $100 for the level of specialty you’re looking for.

More effective diagnoses

Telemedicine isn’t just making autism diagnoses more convenient and low-cost, it’s also improving its effectiveness. A study by scientific journal PLOS ONE, which examined how telemedical services compare to face-to-face methods, found that the former has the main advantage: a method we call “store-and-forward.” Store-and-forward is when the caretaker uploads the patient data (such as videos of the autism patient’s progress) through an online portal. The primary care provider then reviews this at their own pace, allowing them to provide more personalized autism assessments. The participating professionals were even “certain” or “very certain” about the quality of their diagnosis.

Telemedical services can do a lot for autism care, and the best part is that it’s easily accessible with a smartphone and a stable internet connection. For those living in more rural locations, your local health center should have telemedicine services you can use.

If you’re interested to see how else technology is assisting autism care, take a look at our previous post on the topic.

Rory Jovie is a freelance content writer who strongly advocates for online services, most especially online education. Both her parents work for healthcare insurance companies, which has inspired her dream to eventually start a healthcare-related tech business of her own.

Photo by Beci Harmony on Unsplash

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