An Interprofessional Approach to Healthcare: Autism Spectrum Disorder in Individuals Over the Age of 21
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by deficits in communication and impairments with social skills (i.e., repetitive behaviors, speech, and patterns of thoughts). ASD most commonly affects non-Hispanic white males. In recent years, the prevalence of autism in the United States increased from 6.7 per 1000 children in 2000 to 23.0 per 1000 children in 2018. Most ASD research focuses on detection and management of children but fails to consider the fact that ASD is a lifelong disorder. Individuals living with ASD often have several comorbidities including, but not limited to, GI complications, sleep disturbances, seizure disorders, nutritional deficits, and mental health complications. Interprofessional collaboration has therefore become an essential component in the treatment of individuals living with ASD.
It has been well established that interprofessional care leads to better work environments, improved patient outcomes, lower financial burdens, and prevention of duplicate services. In theory, collaboration across professions would improve outcomes by taking advantage of the unique skills of each member of the healthcare team. Though the main objective of all individuals on a healthcare team is to effectively treat the patient, conflicts in collaborative practices can hinder patient care due to opposition of ideas, lack of interprofessional conflict resolution skills and rigid professional boundaries.
The present project reviews the benefits and challenges to an interprofessional approach to treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorder over the age of 21. It also analyzes potential cost reduction associated with collaborative care and provides a recommendation for the annual health visit for an adult with ASD. In collaboration with students representing dental hygiene, dentistry, medicine, nursing, physical therapy, and speech pathology, the IPEC sub-competencies were explored to establish a model of an interprofessional annual wellness visit that included professions, examinations, and implementation strategies.
By utilizing swimlane diagrams, evaluating costs of services, and identifying areas of need, we determined that interprofessional healthcare assessments cut costs, improve patient outcomes, and unite the strengths and competencies of individual practitioners. Furthermore, we highlighted the importance of implementation of interprofessional experiences early in graduate training.
This project highlighted the importance of partnerships advancing care in a health setting. Future research should explore the long-term impact of interprofessional practice on treatment.