MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Guodong Liu, PhD
Division of Health Services and Behavioral Research
Department of Public Health Sciences, A210
Penn State University College of Medicine
Hershey, PA 17033
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use emergency department services four times as often as their peers without autism, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers. The findings suggest that youth with autism may need better access to primary care and specialist services.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Although there was no significant increase in autism rates among adolescents in the study over the nine-year period, emergency department use in adolescents with autism increased five-fold, from 3 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2013. During the same time period, emergency department use in adolescents without an autism diagnosis remained steady at around 3 percent. there could be a link between this underutilization of preventive care services and overuse of emergency department services.
On average, adolescents with autism had a four-time higher risk of visiting the emergency department than adolescents without ASD. Older adolescents with autism also visited the emergency department more often than their younger counterparts. A third of middle and late adolescents in this group had medical emergencies, compared to just one-tenth of early adolescents. Females and individuals living in rural areas were more likely to visit the emergency room than males and those living in urban areas.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: We want to see more data on adolescents with ASD to confirm his findings. We are planning a similar study of emergency department use in adolescent Medicaid patients with autism. Our goal is to plot an unbiased nationally representative picture of how this special population fares in terms of their emergency department usage and, in related work, hospitalizations.
We are also searching for modifiable factors that could be addressed to reduce emergency visits and resulting hospitalizations in adolescents with autism.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: These Young ASD patients need to be actively taken care of and monitored. There should be better communication between these adolescents and their caregivers and with their regular pediatricians and specialists. If we can do those kinds of things we may help them have less frequent emergencies. This study was published by the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
I have no disclosures.
Lead author: Dr. Guodong Liu, assistant professor of public health sciences, Penn State University College of Medicine.
Other researchers on this study were Amanda M. Pearl, PhD and Michael J. Murray, MD, Department of Psychiatry; Lan Kong, PhD, Division of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Department of Public Health Sciences; and Douglas L. Leslie, PhD, Division of Health Services and Behavioral Research, Department of Public Health Sciences, all at Penn State College of Medicine.
Penn State College of Medicine Junior Faculty Development Program funded this research.
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Guodong Liu, Amanda M. Pearl, Lan Kong, Douglas L. Leslie, Michael J. Murray. A Profile on Emergency Department Utilization in Adolescents and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2016; 47 (2): 347 DOI: 10.1007/s10803-016-2953-8
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