Standards Group Unveils Telehealth Accreditation For Autism Care Providers


By Eric Wicklund

The accrediting body for autism treatment providers has developed new standards of care for providers looking to use telehealth.

With the nation embroiled in the Coronavirus pandemic and under lockdown for the foreseeable future, the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence has created guidance and best practices for providers using connected health platforms to deliver applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy. The effort aims to help families of children living with autism access treatment at a time when many doctor’s office and clinics are shuttered.

“Telehealth is a really powerful tool at this time,” says CEO of the five-year-old, Los Angeles-based organization, Sara Litvak.

Litvak estimates that 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the nation’s ABA providers had adopted telehealth prior to the COVID-19 emergency. In a recent survey of some 300 providers, that number is up to about 80 per cent, with 65 per cent moving exclusively to telehealth, 58 per cent reducing hours and 8 per cent shutting their doors entirely.

For families of children with autism and other developmental disorders, access to continued treatment is vital. Many of these children focus – and in some cases thrive – on routines and patterned care, and can have problems or regress if those patterns are interrupted. The treatments also help parents and other caregivers dealing with the stresses of the pandemic.

Litvak said the BHCOE had included telehealth in its business plan, but sped up the timeline in light of the emergency.

“There’s definitely a large majority that have moved to telehealth … and we needed to address that,” she says.

The accreditation process addresses five keys issues: organizational compliance, human resources, patient intake, clinical practice and technology, privacy and security. It’s designed to give providers insight into issues that include HIPAA compliance, choosing the right telemedicine technology, finding the right “webside manner” and making patients comfortable with using the technology.

“A lot of (patients) actually really love technology,” Litvak says. “Telehealth can be really impactful in working with them.”

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