Dr. Kristin Sohl, a pediatrician at the University of Missouri Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, will expand the growing ECHO Autism program, which launched in March, to an additional 10 sites.
Sohl's ECHO Autism project will be the centerpiece of a recent grant renewal through the federal Health Services Research Administration's Autism Intervention for Physical Health initiative. The $15 million award is shared among 14 autism centers in North America.
"I am excited to be focusing my efforts on changing the landscape for autism care across North America and working to improve the health system so centers of excellence in autism can improve throughput for more children to enhance quality of life for more families," Sohl said.
ECHO Autism is based on a telehealth specialist network model developed by a hepatologist at the University of New Mexico, Sanjeev Arora, to serve the needs of hepatitis C patients who had no access to treatment where they lived and were dying on the growing waitlist for his clinic.
Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) pairs specialist centers, such as those at the Thompson Center, with community providers to help them manage cases and empower them with knowledge to help their patients locally.
Sohl's pilot cohort for ECHO Autism, the first ECHO-based project for autism care in the U.S., included 15 providers from all over the country, including rural and underserved areas in Missouri.
With a goal to develop 10 additional centers of excellence in autism care through this program, Sohl's new efforts will bring this specialty knowledge about common medical issues in children with autism and barriers to diagnosis and treatment to an exponentially larger group of physicians.
"Dr. Sohl is a gifted physician who is passionate about caring for children," said Thompson Center Executive Director Dr. Stephen Kanne. "Her efforts to close the gap in access to quality medical care so that children with autism can have the best outcomes possible are vital to extending our center's work to help kids beyond our local and regional communities."
Most importantly, patients served by providers in the ECHO Autism network have the chance to be treated in their own community, without waiting or traveling to see a specialist.
"The ECHO Autism model will improve early identification of autism and increase screening and treatment of common co-occurring conditions in the primary care setting, particularly in underserved communities," Sohl said.