walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Improving the ER for people on the spectrum


Kaiser Health News article at MedPage Today about changing emergency rooms to better serve people with autism -- children AND adults. Part of this is driven by doctors who have children with diagnoses, part by the fact that people on the spectrum generally have other medical needs at higher rates than the general population, and partly to improve medical care. There's a little better customer service = better business going on, too.

""People on the [autism] spectrum utilize the healthcare system more often. They disproportionately are using our services," said Edward Jauch, director of emergency medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. From a cost standpoint alone, he said, it makes sense to figure out how to care for them effectively and efficiently."

He would know.

"Jauch's 21 year-old son has autism and frequently required emergency care as a child. So Jauch would often speak to emergency departments about the disorder. He has for years brought his son into work, so his residents can learn how to interact with someone with autism, and "not when they're in a moment of crisis.""

"Of autistic children who use the emergency department, almost one in four are sedated or restrained to keep calm. But if giving a squishy toy achieves the same effect, hospitals can drive down the cost of care, patients don't need to be medicated and they might be more receptive to treatment."

I'm very happy to see this development. My sense is that medical care -- at least in the places where I have lived -- has improved in this sense over the course of my lifetime, because of changes demanded by, well, everyone. More women in healthcare at all levels, more awareness of the kinds of things that drive litigation and changes in medical training have all added up to a lot more compassion today than in decades past (and that's been a long-standing trend -- much longer than I've been alive). But it is nice to know that people on the spectrum aren't going to be completely left out forever.

"Put another way: If she had a child with autism, "I would probably drive a further distance" if it meant going to a hospital with better-suited care, said Cara Harwell, the nurse practitioner at Nemours who launched their program." Given what women routinely do in the course of picking a hospital for their births, and given that women who use a hospital for a birth tend to return to that hospital for any future family needs for hospital treatment, this does actually seem like a no-brainer -- there are few other differentiators between hospitals that are apparent to patients.
Tags: autism

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