Health Transformation Alliance Teams up With Cognoa for Autism Diagnostic Device

The Health Transformation Alliance (HTA), a group of nearly 60 large employers, announced Thursday it is partnering with pediatric behavioral health company Cognoa for its diagnostic device for autism.

HTA is a cooperative of self-insured employers, including Walgreens, CocaCola, Verizon and American Express. Palo Alto, California-based Cognoa, meanwhile, is a developer of AI-based technologies for early diagnosis of children with developmental and behavioral health conditions. Its Canvas Dx product is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and assists healthcare providers in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder for children ages 18 months through 72 months. The product is the first of its sort to be authorized by the FDA.

Through the partnership, HTA members will be able to add Canvas Dx to their benefit plan. Canvas Dx includes three inputs: a questionnaire for the parent or caregiver that asks about the child’s behavior, two videos of the child at home that are recorded by the caregiver and a questionnaire for the physician. The tool then analyzes all three inputs and gives the results to the physician, who can then make a clinical judgment. The caregivers use an app for their part, while the clinicians do their part online.

“It helps [clinicians] see, what did the parents say? What did the child do in the videos? What did they say?” said Dr. Sharief Taraman, CEO of Cognoa. “Then [it shows] how all of those interplay together to let us understand, is this autism or not? Is this something else that we need more workup on and we don’t want to miss it and ignore it?”

Taraman added that Canvas Dx reduces barriers for parents, who often have to battle long wait times, fill out a lot of paperwork and travel far distances to get their child evaluated. When kids have to travel for their appointments, they sometimes act differently than they do in their natural environment, which is why the home videos are beneficial, he said.

“Many times parents are traveling hundreds of miles to get [to appointments],” Taraman said. “So now the child is tired, cranky and maybe even in a different time zone. We have some states where there are no diagnosticians.”

The tool can also be leveraged by primary care physicians, not just specialists, which further increases access, according to Taraman.

About 25% of children are at risk for a development delay in the U.S., and autism affects about one in 44 children. The average age of diagnosis for Autism is over four years old, despite the fact that it can be diagnosed at 18 months. HTA is aiming to move the needle on these stats, said Mallory Huff, vice president of strategic product development.

“The pediatric behavioral and mental health crisis continues to grow, and health equity issues create even greater barriers for some families,” Huff said in a news release. “Leading employers recognize the struggles and multi-year delays families face when concerned for their child’s development and searching for answers from healthcare providers. There are significant clinical and financial costs for these delays, impacting both families and employers. With Canvas Dx, parents have a clear path to answers and are empowered instead of burdened with stress and uncertainty.”

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