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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Autism and Visits to the Doctor

One goal I would hope that would be addressed in future Strategic Plans is the need for adequate medical care for autistics. It is my belief that the current medical system in the U.S. does not incentivize doctors for the care that is required by the disabled. One doctor told me that 70% or more of the information needed to come to a preliminary diagnosis comes from direct communication with the patient. It seems highly likely that individuals with difficulties in communication and sensory issues will require additional effort on the part of physicians. And, yet, insurance assumes that an office visit will be the same time for an autistic individual as for a non-autistic individual.

The questions that I would like to see addressed are straightforward. First, what is the appropriate amount of time doctors need to take to adequately address the needs of their autistic patients? This information could be used to allow for an additional or a different billing code for doctors to use with this population. Second, does the current system disincentivize doctors from taking on disabled patients in general, and autistic patients in specific?

A recent paper gives a view of the importance of these issues: Parenting aggravation and autism spectrum disorders: 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health. Parents without a medical home show much higher levels of aggravation. Addressing this one area could provide much benefit to not only the autistic children, but to the parents as well.

Also see agenda and materials for today's IACC meeting.