The landscape for autism service delivery and the financing of those services is in a state of flux. In his keynote address, Opportunity & Innovation In The Autism Market: The Beacon Health Options Strategy at The 2019 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute, James Craig, Vice President, Corporate Clinical, Autism Solutions, for Beacon Health Options, shared some of the issues that are top of mind in his work with Beacon – collaborative care with care managers, early intervention and screening, and partnering with large, scalable organizations. (For more, see Autism—Increasing Demand, Increasing Cost & New Service Models.)
But I was struck by an element of Mr. Craig’s presentation – the technologies that he thinks will change the course of autism treatment.
Specifically, I was struck by the diversity of the list. What did it include?
- Mobile and special education apps – There are two types of apps that Mr. Craig sees as useful in the treatment of autism. The first type of app focuses on diagnosis and behavior tracking to allow families to connect to care and receive an early diagnosis. The second type of app is focused on education of children with autism. These apps can assist in reinforcing applied behavior analysis (ABA) at home and skill development. (For more see Otsimo Expands Autism Education App In U.S. and FDA Determines Cognoa Mobile Health Platform for Autism Diagnosis & Care Is A Class II Medical Device).
- Telehealth – Telehealth is key to addressing the nationwide workforce shortage of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and bringing care to rural areas. While ABA services need to be provided in person, BCBAs who supervise direct treatment can serve more individuals and provide parent training by cutting out travel time. (For more, see Mobile Video Analysis & Machine Learning Can Identify A Child With Autism With A 90% Accuracy Rate, ECHO Autism Teleconsultation Program Reduced Wait Times Up To Six Months For Highest-Risk, Rural Children, and Autism Evaluations Conducted Via Telemedicine Nearly As Accurately As In-Person Assessment.)
- EEGs and blood tests for autism diagnosis – Electroencephalograms (EEGs), which is a record or test of brain function have been found to predict autism in babies as early as three months and be 100% accurate by nine months. Additionally, blood tests which look for the patterns in metabolites are found to be 88% accurate. If approved, both tests could help alleviate the shortage of clinical professionals able to diagnosis autism. (For more, see NeuroPointDX Launches Autism Blood Test For Young Children, Follow-Up Study Of Autism Blood Test Has 88% Diagnostic Accuracy, Brain Scans Of People With Autism Show Differences Compared To Neurotypical People, and EEG Signals Accurately Predict Autism As Early As 3 Months Of Age.)
- Wearable technology – There are a number of wearable technologies out there from headbands that stimulate missing brain waves to Google Glass which can help social engagement by providing feedback. Then there are weighted vests whose pressure can be controlled via an app and wristbands that provide remote monitoring. (For more, see Autism Spectrum Disorder “Fever Effect” Pilot Study Enrollment Begins, Neurotech International Reports Positive Results In Autism Clinical Trial, and Google Glass Is A Feasible Wearable Socio-Affective Aid For Children With Autism.)
- Robotic aids – Mr. Craig explained that is sometimes easier for children with autism to connect with robots because they make children less anxious and can be more approachable. In conjunction with a therapist, the robots are designed for autistic children to learn to pick up on emotions, self-motivate, and express empathy. (For more, see South Carolina Department Of Education Launches Three-Year Pilot Of RoboKind’s Robot & Social-Emotional Curriculum For Autism, Robots Can Improve Social Skills In Children With Autism.)
- Virtual reality solutions – Virtual reality solutions such as gaming and augmented reality can help children exert influence on their environment, increase physical exercise, and improve hand-eye coordination. This can be particularly important for children with who have a hard time engaging in physical activity due to sensory challenges such as feeling pain from touching an everyday object.
- Platforms for family engagement – Families caring for an individual with autism also need support. They spend an immense amount of time coordinating appointments and proving additional caregiving. Platforms such as apps and websites can provide resources, coaching, peer support, and referrals.
- Fecal transplant – Children with severe autism often have a lack of microbial gut biota and a higher incidence of gastrointestinal disorders. Still in the early stages of development, some research has shown that children with autism can benefit from a fecal transplant leading to a normalized gut biome and improve some of the core symptoms of autism.
- Medication frontiers – Currently there are two FDA-approved medications for the reduction of symptoms associated with autism including irritability and aggression. There are also a few drugs that show promise in addressing the core symptoms of autism. (For more, see FDA Grants Breakthrough Therapy Status To Potential Autism Drug To Improve Social Interaction & Communication.)
The list of technology for autism—both currently available and in the pipeline—is long and will probably continue to grow.
We don’t know which of these technologies in general—and vendors in particular—will emerge as the market leader in this section. But for provider organizations management teams serving the autism market, integrating these new solutions should be part of every on-going strategy discussion.
For even more, join us at The 2019 OPEN MINDS Leadership Retreat in Gettysburg, PA on September 9 for the Innovative Treatment Programs For Value-Based Partnerships: The OPEN MINDS Clinical Innovation Executive Summit led by Ken Carr, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS.