Improving Access to Care at Autism Treatment Centers: A System Analysis Approach
OBJECTIVE: The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder is steadily increasing and placing more demands on already overburdened diagnostic and treatment systems. A thoughtful, systematic reorganization of autism service delivery may reduce delays and better meet the growing need.
METHODS: Two clinical centers in the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) and Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH), undertook a year-long access improvement project to reduce delays to care by using system analysis to identify sources of delay and to target changes by using a set of defined access principles. Although both sites addressed access, they focused on slightly different targets (reducing number of patients with autism spectrum disorders waiting for follow-up appointments at NCH and reducing delay to new diagnosis at CCHMC).
RESULTS: Both sites achieved dramatic improvements in their complex, multidisciplinary systems. A 94% reduction in number of patients on the waitlist from 99 to 6 patients and a 22% reduction in median delay for a new ongoing care appointment were realized at NCH. A 94% reduction in third next available appointment for new physician visits for children 3 to 5 years old was realized at CCHMC.
CONCLUSIONS: This article demonstrates that 2 different clinical systems improved access to care for autism diagnosis and follow-up care by identifying sources of delay and using targeted changes based on a set of access change principles. With appropriate guidance and data analysis, improvements in access can be made.
- Accepted November 9, 2015.
- Copyright © 2016 by the American Academy of Pediatrics