Utilising teleconferencing in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder: using technology to enhance clinical practice

Narelle Sarakinis1, Dr David G Thomas2

1Riverland Community Health Service, 21 Cornwall Street Berri SA 5343, narelle.sarakinis3@sa.gov.au
2Women’s and Children’s Hospital, 72 King William Road North Adelaide SA 5006, david.thomas@sa.gov.au

Background:

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a growing phenomenon in Australia. With its rising prevalence, the need for ASD diagnostic assessments has increased. Coordinated, multi-disciplinary assessments are required for ASD, however, these are primarily offered in metropolitan settings. Families in rural and remote areas do not have access to these services in a consistent and timely manner. One way to address this inequity of access is through use of videoconferencing which allows local families access to a one stop shop for ASD diagnostic assessments and case management.

Method:

Six ASD diagnostic clinics were set up annually, providing up to 12 assessments per year. Access to the clinic was via referral to the Riverland Child Development Unit (CDU). Case history information was collected by a Paediatrician and a Speech Pathologist up to 4 weeks prior to the assessment. A face to face assessment was conducted by the Speech Pathologist, with the Paediatrician observing via videoconference, with the outcome notified to parents within a week and management options explored within a month.

Results:

Findings from the evaluation indicate that families were satisfied with the use of videoconferencing. In particular, the coordinated approach ensured access to timely care, reduced waiting times and early intervention opportunities. Families felt supported and the saving gained from travel time and costs were particularly appreciated.

Discussion:

Technology now provides an ideal alternative to historical models of care while ameliorating the traditional barriers to health care access that confronts those in rural and remote areas.