Demand For Autism Care Is At An All-Time High. Technology Can Help

Sean Banerjee, CTO of CentralReach
New tech is aiding not just the neurodiverse, but their employers and caregivers as well, says Sean Banerjee, CTO of CentralReach.

Information technology professionals at organizations that include individuals with autism or other intellectual or developmental disabilities can boost their effectiveness via technology, says Sean Banerjee, CTO of CentralReach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Banerjee spoke with StrategicCIO360 about demand for these kinds of resources, how the neurodiverse can help solve the talent squeeze and how to best leverage technology for those in need of assistance.

What role does technology play in the autism and intellectual or developmental disabilities space?

Technology plays a critically important role in the autism and IDD care space. The demand for care is at an all-time high, but access to evidence-based, quality care and learning continues to be constrained due to a shortage of professionals and inadequate solutions serving the space.

According to the CDC, one in 44 U.S. children were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in 2021. Yet, there remains a supply and demand problem—there are more children being diagnosed with autism or IDD but not enough clinicians, special education teachers or trained job coaches to deliver the necessary care to these individuals. The lack of resources for those with autism and IDD has resulted in an unemployment rate of 80 percent among these groups. 

With the high demand for care and the inability to provide it, the space needs an efficient solution. Technology can be productive for not only those with autism or IDD, but also for their clinicians, job coaches and parents.

Why is interoperability important in this space and how does the technology rely on the participation of everyone involved in the delivery and maintenance of care?

In the last few years, autism care has gone through a huge transformation because care is no longer only provided in a clinical setting. Leveraging mobile technology to assist with clinical assessments, data collection, curricula development, billing and regulatory compliance increases clinician bandwidth while streamlining and improving operational efficiencies, and improving outcomes. Many caregivers that work with a lot of neurodiverse individuals are looking for a more streamlined experience with a single sign-on or seamless login. 

The payment model has also played a role in the changes that have occurred in the space. Now, insurance covers autism care, which encourages care to be provided in a standardized way. Many individuals on the spectrum are on Medicaid, so their claims and payments need to be submitted in a very specific and standardized way. These processes need to be done efficiently, putting a lot of pressure on interoperability.

Utilizing technology allows multiple stakeholders to support the care of individuals with autism and IDD in real time. There is information coming from everywhere and it is impossible for clinicians to manually input everything. Yet, to understand the full context of an autistic individual’s entire healthcare journey, many states are asking clinicians to submit their patient’s data to health information exchanges to make it easier for primary care and specialist care providers to reference. Therefore, it is paramount to leverage a platform where all of this information can be easily stored and accessed when needed.

How will technology help impact the way companies work with employees who have different work styles and abilities?

Technology is key to helping neurodiverse individuals gain employment, master job-related tasks and excel at their jobs. Assistive technology provides easy-to-use prompts for on-the-job tasks and employment skills that help neurodiverse individuals gain employment and work independently. With the continuing issue of the Great Resignation and workforce shortages, employers can leverage technology to tap into the talent-rich pool of neurodiverse applicants to fill vacant job positions. 

Rather than relying on a job coach to train neurodiverse employees, assistive technology can provide support in a straightforward format. Repetition of task instructions is vital for training neurodiverse workers, but can be time consuming for job coaches. Technology can easily handle this repetitive nature of job coaching and allow the employee to work at their own pace.

Mergers and acquisitions are commonplace in the tech industry, making technology integration a necessity. What advice do you have for CIOs who are addressing the challenge?

Mergers and acquisitions are commonplace in today’s world. Big companies acquire smaller companies and smaller companies merge with each other. This constant change puts a lot of pressure on CIOs, who have to integrate disparate technologies.

Since this is commonplace, CIOs need to develop a go-to model for handling these situations that take many different users into consideration, such as revenue management, staff management, employee management and HR management. CIOs should not fall into the silo trap when integrating technology, but instead work with cross-functional teams to develop a comprehensive product road map to achieve their technology integration goals. 

View technology integration with a 360-degree perspective to understand how best to integrate new solutions into an existing platform to enhance the user experience and increase the ROI for customers. The solution is to build the best and easily repeatable interoperable model and M&A playbook that is ready to go whenever there is a merger or acquisition. Having a set plan and executing it over and over is simply a necessity for every organization and CIO.

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