The Development and Evaluation of an Online Healthcare Toolkit for Autistic Adults and their Primary Care Providers

J Gen Intern Med. 2016 Oct;31(10):1180-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-016-3763-6. Epub 2016 Jun 6.


Background: The healthcare system is ill-equipped to meet the needs of adults on the autism spectrum.

Objective: Our goal was to use a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to develop and evaluate tools to facilitate the primary healthcare of autistic adults.

Design: Toolkit development included cognitive interviewing and test-retest reliability studies. Evaluation consisted of a mixed-methods, single-arm pre/post-intervention comparison.

Participants: A total of 259 autistic adults and 51 primary care providers (PCPs) residing in the United States.

Interventions: The AASPIRE Healthcare toolkit includes the Autism Healthcare Accommodations Tool (AHAT)-a tool that allows patients to create a personalized accommodations report for their PCP-and general healthcare- and autism-related information, worksheets, checklists, and resources for patients and healthcare providers.

Main measures: Satisfaction with patient-provider communication, healthcare self-efficacy, barriers to healthcare, and satisfaction with the toolkit's usability and utility; responses to open-ended questions.

Key results: Preliminary testing of the AHAT demonstrated strong content validity and adequate test-retest stability. Almost all patient participants (>94 %) felt that the AHAT and the toolkit were easy to use, important, and useful. In pre/post-intervention comparisons, the mean number of barriers decreased (from 4.07 to 2.82, p < 0.0001), healthcare self-efficacy increased (from 37.9 to 39.4, p = 0.02), and satisfaction with PCP communication improved (from 30.9 to 32.6, p = 0.03). Patients stated that the toolkit helped clarify their needs, enabled them to self-advocate and prepare for visits more effectively, and positively influenced provider behavior. Most of the PCPs surveyed read the AHAT (97 %), rated it as moderately or very useful (82 %), and would recommend it to other patients (87 %).

Conclusions: The CBPR process resulted in a reliable healthcare accommodation tool and a highly accessible healthcare toolkit. Patients and providers indicated that the tools positively impacted healthcare interactions. The toolkit has the potential to reduce barriers to healthcare and improve healthcare self-efficacy and patient-provider communication.

Trial registration: NCT01579669.

Keywords: adults; autism; community-based participatory research; healthcare interactions; primary care.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Communication
  • Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Online Systems*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Efficacy
  • United States
  • Young Adult

Associated data