A 3- to 6-month learning program for pediatric and family medicine providers significantly improved their screening for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at 18- and 24-month well child visits, based on data from 26 primary care practices that participated in the program and from 43 physicians who completed surveys before and after the program, according to findings published online May 5 in Pediatrics.

“Unlike traditional continuing medical education, the LC [learning collaborative] focused on improvement of processes of care at the practice level,” wrote Dr. Paul S. Carbone and his colleagues of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. The first signs of ASD can be present as early as 2 years of age, but often remain undiagnosed for lack of screening at 18- and 24-month visits, they noted.

Rates of documented ASD screening among toddlers increased from 16% before starting the program to 91% during the last month of the program, and 70% of the practices sustained the 91% screening rate 4 years later.

Physician self-efficacy improved significantly from baseline to after the program on the nine autism conditions (such as sleep problems, constipation, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]) and seven autism needs (such as making referrals, addressing developmental concerns, and identifying community support services) included in the survey. On a scale of 1 to 10, the average physician’s progress rating was 6.5 after completing the program.

“A LC using the methods we describe is a successful approach to improving the early identification and ongoing care of children with ASD in primary care practices,” they researchers said.

Read the whole article at Pediatrics (2016 May. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-1850 ).


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