Pilot Grants

Understanding the Experiences in Telemedicine for Children with Suspected Autism Spectrum Disorder in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Statement of Problem

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many developmental-behavioral pediatric (DBP) practices expanded their telehealth use to allow for evaluations and care for children with developmental differences. In fact, a recent survey conducted by our group, published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, found 100% of national DBP fellowship-associated practice locations offered video-based telehealth during the pandemic, with almost 90% performing home-based evaluations for young children with suspected autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  

Emerging evidence illustrates that telehealth appointments, or video assessments, for ASD can be effective. However, we do not yet know how this type of assessment is received by providers and families.


Through a mixed-methods approach, our team plans to detail the experiences of families and providers who utilize telehealth services for the assessment of ASD in young children, and determine the acceptability, benefits of, and concerns raised by the use of telehealth for these types of evaluations. We will do this by going straight to the experts—conducting qualitative, phone-based interviews in English or Spanish with DBPs and caregivers of children with suspected ASD who have had a recent telehealth experience. In order to capture a wide range of experiences, we plan to utilize the Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Research Network (DBPNet), a network of academic DBP practices, to recruit eligible participants for our study.

A primary goal of this work is to ensure health care and health care access is more equitable for families. We anticipate that families whose primary language is Spanish will have a unique experience that deserves focused attention. While many researchers choose to include only English-speaking families, we are inviting Spanish-speaking families to participate and have translated our study materials into Spanish. In addition to phone interviews, we will also ask families to complete a demographic questionnaire and written survey. Taken together, this collected data will demonstrate caregiver perspectives on barriers and facilitators to accessing care via telemedicine, with the ability to compare and contrast experiences of various sub-groups, including Spanish- and English-speaking families.

Next Steps

Our hope is that findings from this study can be used to inform the ongoing role of telehealth in DBP. Policies and payment for telemedicine services remain in question after COVID-19-related authorizations expire. Therefore, we seek to inform payment models by understanding the impact of telehealth on provider payments and family expenses for DBP care. These findings will advise the development a policy brief, targeted to public and private payers, to highlight what we learn regarding the best use of telemedicine in DBP care.

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Understanding the Experiences in Telemedicine for Children with Suspected Autism Spectrum Disorder in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics During the COVID-19 Pandemic [Online]. Available at: http://www.policylab.chop.edu [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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