The need for treatment outcomes data for the early intervention (EI) population has led to the launch of a new outcomes forum by ASHA's National Center for Evidence-Based Practice in Communication Disorders (N-CEP).
N-CEP has begun a large-scale exploration of its potential role in collecting treatment outcomes data for the EI population (birth to 3) through its Early Intervention Outcomes Forum.
The forum has two purposes: to update clinicians about events that may inform how N-CEP can contribute to EI treatment outcomes and to serve as an opportunity for clinicians to respond to questions from ASHA, pose questions, and post online comments related to treatment outcomes for the EI population (see sidebar).
ASHA's National Outcomes Measurement System (NOMS) provides a mechanism for submitting and analyzing treatment outcomes data for three populations—pre-kindergarten, K-12, and adults—but not for the EI population. The need for treatment outcomes data for the EI population in speech-language pathology and audiology is underscored by data from studies such as the National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study, which revealed that at least 41% of children entering EI programs have a communication disorder. Because communication development plays a profound role in all aspects of an individual's life and because of the substantial number of children in EI with communication disorders, collection and use of outcomes data for this population are essential.
National Data Collection
States' lead EI agencies are required to report data to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) on specific child and family outcomes for infants and toddlers receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (see sidebar). Audiologists' and speech-language pathologists' contributions to such broad outcomes may appear outside their scopes of practice. However, professionals working with EI and early childhood populations are often part of transdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teams that must collaborate to determine holistic treatment goals and promote functional outcomes.
ASHA convened a 2008 meeting to explore its role in supporting treatment outcomes data collection for the EI population served by SLPs and audiologists. Member audiologists and SLPs identified EI data collection stakeholders and how those stakeholders would use the data. Although several stakeholders were identified, the consensus on primary stakeholders converged on OSEP, lead state agencies, private insurance companies, and Medicaid. Additional stakeholders included Head Start programs, consumers, pediatricians, child psychiatrists, family practitioners, advocacy groups, and many others (see Figure 1 [PDF]).
Some stakeholders have unique data usages—such as resource utilization and quality assurance—but distinct overlaps were noted in data implementation. As shown in Figure 1 by the intersection of the shaded circles, overlaps occurred, for example, in using the data to determine reimbursement rates and service coverage, control costs, and improve coding.