Web Tool Could Reduce Autism Diagnosis Time to Minutes, Study Finds

A new online tool could significantly reduce the amount of time needed to diagnose children with autism, according to a study published in the journal Nature Translational Psychiatry, HealthDay reports (Preidt, HealthDay, 4/10).

Details on the Tool

Dennis Wall -- director of the computational biology initiative at Harvard Medical School's Center for Biomedical Informatics -- designed the online tool.

To diagnose a child with autism, the Web-based tool uses computer algorithms to help trained professionals analyze:

  • A seven-question survey that parents complete through an online portal; and
  • A two- to five-minute video clip of the child playing.

Wall and his colleagues examined data from individuals diagnosed with autism and found that the Web-based tool was nearly as accurate as traditional evaluation methods at diagnosing autism (Rochman, "Healthland," Time, 4/11).

Tool Could Cut Diagnosis Time

Currently, autism evaluations can take up to three hours and involve as many as 93 questions. However, Wall and his colleagues said the Web-based method takes only a few minutes to complete, reducing autism diagnosis time by nearly 95%.

Wall said that he believes the online tool "will make it possible for more children to be accurately diagnosed during the early critical period when behavioral therapies are most effective."

Call for More Research

However, some experts said that more research is needed on the accuracy of the online tool.

Andrew Adesman -- chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York -- said, "Although the accuracy and specificity of the abbreviated approach are impressive, it is likely that this abbreviated approach to testing may not be quite as accurate and discriminating when evaluating a more diverse sample than was included in the study just reported" (HealthDay, 4/10).

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