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Preferences in primary care for people with autism
Blog //30-03-2022

Preferences in primary care for people with autism

by Health and Care, OneAdvanced Public Sector

We are recognising World Autism Acceptance Week from 28 March to 3 April. A time to focus on our understanding of the condition and how society works for autistic people.

How access to primary care can affect those with autism

According to the National Autistic Society, one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.

The UK Government’s ‘National Strategy for Autistic Children, Young People and Adults’ outlines the aim to reduce the healthcare inequalities faced by those with autism to ensure longer and healthier living. As part of this guidance, it has been noted that those with autism display a higher risk of having other health problems, which can be worsened by feeling unable to reach out to the care providers needed.

Characteristics of autism such as social interaction challenges, sensitivity to light and sound, hearing difficulties, extreme anxiety and restrictive behaviours can make it incredibly difficult for some to contact primary care settings, such as their GP.  

According to the pre-published findings of a research team from Ireland, USA and UK in November 2020, 50.5 per cent of autistic respondents to their survey stated that the GP waiting room environment was a barrier to access.

 “Autistic adults reported a preference for online or text-based appointment booking, facility to email in advance the reason for consultation, first or last clinic appointment and a quiet place to wait.”

Why online consultation solutions can help those with autism access primary care

A particularly negative experience can lead patients to no longer use the vital service, and in worse case scenarios potentially result in a decline in health. By using an online consultation software, primary care providers can support patients with autism before the consultation even takes place.

Online consultation systems can support access for those with autism by being flexible to their personal preferences. The traditional waiting room barrier is removed, allowing those with autism to stay in a comfortable environment that they are familiar with and being able to work around a routine they prefer.

Furthermore, 41 per cent of respondents to the same survey stated that they preferred communicating in writing. Online consultation solutions allowing free text may, therefore, better support those with autism as if offers freedom that may otherwise be thwarted during a potentially worrisome telephone call or in-person appointment.

And with a long-term focus on the digitisation of primary care, this has meant that online consultation options are readily available, and better equipped in supporting the preferences of those with autism.

What is PATCHS?

Advanced has partnered with the University of Manchester and Spectra Analytics to provide PATCHS – an all-in-one online consultation solution for patient triage and workflow management.

How can online consultation software help support people with autism to access their GP?

Research carried out by the University of Manchester and Spectra Analytics has found that autistic patients prefer using PATCHS to traditional patient consultation methods like the telephone or in-person visits.

1. Free-text questions

PATCHS uses a few simple open-ended free-text questions to allow patients to fully explain the details of their request in their own words. These free-text questions can give those with autism the opportunity to describe their queries in their own time, without traditional scheduling pressures or uncomfortable face-to-face contact.

2. Flexible functionalities

PATCHS then prioritises these requests based on clinical need, supporting users with two-way messaging, video consultation and image / document upload functionality to make online consultations quick and easy, helping to break down barriers typically experienced by those with autism such as hearing difficulties and extreme anxiety.

3. Self-service

Patients have their own easy to access user account, giving them the freedom to view all current and previous requests without the need to enter their details each time they contact their GP. This can help give those with autism more control over their care journey, allowing them to keep up to date with the progress of their appointments without having to follow the traditional contact methods they may have previously wanted to avoid.

Ric Thompson Managing Director - Health & Care at Advanced says, “PATCHS is a fantastic example of how digital solutions can transform the way GP Practices manage the specific needs of individual patients. PATCHS has a track record of supporting patients who have previously struggled to communicate easily or effectively with their GP and that is something I am proud of, particularly as we celebrate World Autism Acceptance Week.”

Other ways PATCHS helps with access include:

  • Online access supports patients who struggle with traditional GP practice channels such as those with hearing impairments or anxiety
  • Carer (proxy) accounts to support non-digital patients who cannot access online services themselves
  • Automated language translation into over 30 languages, supporting patients with English as a second language
  • Works with standard audio accessibility systems that integrate with web browsers e.g. speech to text
  • Meets Accessible Information Standards and its use by GP practices complies with the requirements of DCB1605
  • Clinical system integration with EMIS, SystmOne and Advanced Docman 10x. 

Learn more about PATCHS today.

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