Thursday, March 05, 2009

Clinic Notes: Survey on Physicians Feeling Ill-Equipped to Treat Autism

In a recent survey, (see Schafer Autism Report, March 4, 2009) over 2000 physicians were surveyed about their views on treating autism in their practice. Of note, only 19% responded and those that did respond felt unprepared to treat autism. Primary care physicians, especially pediatricians, are being encouraged to screen young children for autism. And I think they are responding. I am getting more physician initiated requests to do autism evals. Of course, some physicians, such as pediatric neurologists, are involved in treating autism, prescribing medications that are helpful and doing evals. But I'm not sure what the role of primary care physicians should be in treating autism. I'm always looking for a pediatric neurologists to refer children to for medication. But often there is a long waiting period. I guess, with additional training, perhaps primary care physicians could help out there. Also some children with autism have digestive problems and that could possibly be another useful role for primary care physicians. Now pediatric gastroenterologists handle most of these cases and again there is a long wait for appointments usually. Many parents of children with autism are wary of traditional medicine, often blaming vaccines for causing their child's autism. Furthermore, many parents have turned to alternative medicine in treating autism. Other concerns reported by physicians in the survey were reimbursement problems and a lack of training. I think the real question that should be asked is do primary care physicians want to be involved in the treatment of autism.

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