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Targeted Education for Autism Management across Medical Specialties (TEAMS) Phase 2

This grant provides support to Harvard Medical School (HMS) to launch Phase 2 of the TEAMS Program, an educational initiative that aims to improve health care experiences for individuals with autism and their families across medical specialties and lifespans. In Phase 2, HMS will develop an online curriculum for clinicians across healthcare systems globally as well as an online Harvard Health Publishing Portal for patients, family, and the general public.

The target audience for the program is all clinicians—including physicians (adult and pediatric practitioners and specialists), physicians in training, as well as nurses, social workers, patient coordinators, occupational therapists, and other allied health professionals. Given the challenges of caring for individuals with autism, many physicians and clinicians find themselves underprepared and undereducated for the complexity of diagnoses, the diversity of presentations, and the coordination of care across specialties throughout the lifespan. Treatments for ASD are also rapidly evolving; therefore, clinicians are required to incorporate lifelong medical education into their careers.

Through research conducted during Phase I, HMS determined that the greatest need in medical education is how to best care for adults with ASD, particularly those with comorbid health conditions. The intent of Phase 2 is to develop a four to six credit-hour program, in conjunction with and supported by print materials that focuses on what HMS has determined as the key facets of adults with ASD that would support their care across medical specialties. HMS will develop a comprehensive, engaging, and innovative online program with far-reaching impact, readily accessible to all healthcare workers across the globe, no matter the setting.

The program will contain four modules: the basics of ASD; adults with ASD; preparing for and supporting transitions; and finally, best practices, strategies, and tools for treating and supporting patients with ASD.

Physicians and clinicians who complete the curriculum will have a sound, fundamental understanding of ASD and the best practices involved in diagnosing, treating, and coordinating care across medical specialties throughout the lifespan. More specifically, they will be able to recognize the range of needs that ASD presents across spectrum and age, examine the gap that exists for support of adult patients with ASD, identify key players in the ongoing support of patients with ASD from childhood through adulthood, apply best practices and strategies to better support patients during adult primary and specialist visits, screenings and medical procedures, and develop and utilize communication protocols to increase effectiveness of transitions of care.

In addition to developing CME courses for clinicians, HMS aims to develop a web-based portal featuring patient and family educational materials, including interactive and multi-media content, that will also improve healthcare for adults with ASD. The same themes of the clinical course will carry through patient education content: namely, the importance of transitions and finding creative and flexible solutions to manageable moments in healthcare encounters and in everyday caretaking. Focusing on the manageable moments can enhance resilience and help build patients’ and families’ skills, self-efficacy, and self-advocacy.

The Harvard Health Publishing (HHP) portal will educate and support patients and families with ASD in successfully navigating the healthcare system. Over a three-year period, HHP will create a broad range of educational materials that will serve as a trusted resource for people with ASD and their caregivers. Content will emphasize awareness of the needs of people with ASD, as well as methods to effectively advocate for high-quality healthcare and support during important life and medical specialist transitions.

This partnership between HMS and NLMFF will create a branded curriculum that will serve as an authoritative, evolving core body of knowledge for generations of practitioners committed to serving individuals with autism and their families.