Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Project aims to provide rural Missouri physicians with training to screen and recognize autism

A project in Missouri that launched today uses technology to connect specialists in Columbia with primary care physicians in rural and remote areas to provide those medical professionals with the necessary training to screen and recognize autism, Jill Deutsch reports for the Columbia Missourian. The Echo Autism project is a joint effort between the University of Missouri Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Missouri Telehealth that aims to alleviate the long distances rural patients have to travel to Columbia to see a specialist.

The project is part of a growing telemedicine movement in the U.S. that uses video conference technology to provide care to patients where they live. In Missouri "providers in more than 40 specialties and subspecialties serve 72 Missouri counties from 220 telehealth sites,"  Deutsch writes. "ECHO projects use similar videoconferencing technology, but with specialists providing instruction to other health care providers instead of providing care directly."

Need for the project is great in Missouri, where there are only about 10 to 15 developmental pediatricians, child and adolescent psychiatrists and clinical child psychologists who have autism experience, said Kristin Sohl, Thompson Center medical director, Deutsch writes. "Part of the problem arises from a lack of emphasis on autism education in medical schools. Pediatricians spend a month of their three-year residency learning about developmental disorders such as autism, and family practitioners spend less, Sohl said." (Read more)

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