ADHD News & Research

Better-Trained Pediatricians Reduce Patients’ ADHD Symptoms

A program that helped pediatricians gain confidence in diagnosing and treating ADHD was a win for patients and doctors.

March 10, 2017

A project aimed at improving pediatricians’ understanding of ADHD diagnosis and treatment did more than give the doctors increased knowledge and confidence — it also reduced their patients’ symptoms by more than 10 percent.

The pilot program, organized by the Chapter Quality Network (CQN) of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), ran from December 2015 to January 2017 and was based on the AAP’s guidelines for diagnosing and treating ADHD — guidelines that are widely regarded as the industry standard.

Pediatricians from New York, Ohio, Texas, Georgia, and Arkansas received education on medication management, behavior therapy, and diagnostic processes — as well as strategies for gathering teacher feedback, working with parents, and connecting with other ADHD specialists in their area. The doctors participated in a monthly phone call to discuss their results, and attended four learning sessions over the course of the project.

After the program concluded, 83 percent of the pediatricians reported increased confidence in treating ADHD, and 70 percent reported feeling more confident about diagnostic procedures. Interestingly, these positive feelings were reflected in their patients’ lives: kids with ADHD who were treated by the more-confident doctors saw a 12 percent reduction in the severity of their ADHD symptoms, based on parent and teacher reports.

On top of that, communication between parents, teachers, and doctors increased dramatically, with 71 percent of pediatricians reporting a rise in the rate of parent assessments returned to the doctors. Forty-five percent of pediatricians reported that they found new behavior therapy providers in their area as a result of the program.

“With this grant, pediatricians have become comfortable evaluating, diagnosing, treating, and providing ongoing care for the child and families with ADHD,” said Joseph J. Abularrage, M.D., project leader from one of AAP’s New York chapters. “That’s been a big positive for the children, the families, the pediatricians, and the neurologists.”

The project’s organizers were impressed with the increased parental involvement — a critical factor in designing and maintaining an effective ADHD treatment plan for a child.

“There is a huge disconnect between the physician, parent, and the school, but with (this) QI project, that gap was bridged,” said Donna Williams, parent adviser for another New York AAP chapter. “In a country where we are surrounded by many cultures and practices, it behooves physicians to be as well rounded as possible. This [project] makes it easy for parents to relate to them and trust that their expertise is appropriate for the help that they are seeking.”