A first-of-its-kind network of autism centers across the country is aiming to better address the needs of those with the developmental disability by putting the latest research into practice faster.

The newly launched 20-site Autism Care Network is a “learning health network,” according to Autism Speaks, which is behind the new collaboration.

In addition to treating people with autism in a traditional way, sites will work together to collect data from patients, test treatments and then share best practices among themselves and with other community providers.

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“At each center, we work directly with children with autism and their families to find out what they need, and through collaboration with providers and researchers across the network, use patient data to learn which treatments work and who they work for,” said Donna Murray, vice president of clinical programs at Autism Speaks. “That information gets back to providers through the network, and centers practice these methods and push that information into their communities to get the right care to the right patient at the right time.”

The Autism Care Network is the latest iteration of what was previously known as the Autism Treatment Network. The new version, however, includes almost twice as many sites and has evolved from being primarily a clinical network to a situation where patient insights drive research that’s then implemented, Autism Speaks said.

“Traditional research takes up to 17 years to be put into practice in a provider’s office,” said Karen Kuhlthau, a professor of pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital and director of the Autism Care Network’s research coordinating center. “With patient and family needs driving where we focus our efforts, and a system that lets us answer these questions quickly, the Autism Care Network will accelerate the process of moving best practices identified by research into the clinical setting to deliver more personalized and effective care.”

In addition to Autism Speaks, the Autism Care Network is being funded by the federal Health Resources Services Administration’s Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health, the J. Donald and Laurelle Lee Family Foundation and the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network.

Clinics that are part of the new network are located at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Lexington, Mass., Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, the University of Alberta and Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, the University of California, Irvine in Santa Ana, Calif., the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in Greenville, S.C., the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital in Charlottesville, Va., the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, Conn., the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass. and MetroHealth Autism Assessment Clinic in Parma, Ohio.

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