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Health Risk Screening Tool Helps Those with Intellectual Disabilities Affected by COVID-19 | NEWS-Line for Nurse Practitioner

Health Risk Screening Tool Helps Those with Intellectual Disabilities Affected by COVID-19


The rampant spread of COVID-19 shows that calculating risk factors for vulnerable populations is a matter of life and death. That’s proven in a study conducted by researchers at UNSW showing people with an intellectual and development disability (IDD) are twice as likely to die from a preventable death.(1)

High-risk groups, like those with IDD, lack the ability for caregivers to perform simple risk assessments that could save lives. That is changing though, as the Health Risk Screening, Inc.’s Health Risk Screening Tool (HRST) for identifying risk in people with IDD has been endorsed by the Journal of Nursing Measurement.(2)

According to Dr. Craig Escudé, the president of Health Risk Screening, Inc., it’s never been more critical in understanding the risks of COVID-19 for this more vulnerable group of individuals, and even more important is being able to take steps to mitigate such risks. “Healthcare professionals and caregivers are at a huge disadvantage in providing care for those with IDD during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Escudé says. “This leaves them helpless in assessing mortality risk and providing care for their patients and loved ones.”

IDD Health Risk Screening and Advocacy

The time-tested HRST is a web-based tool currently used in 26 states that determines the mortality risk level of people with IDD to ensure that the support staff for these individuals know precisely when and how to act. The efficacy endorsement from the peer reviewed Journal of Nursing Measurement shines an important light on the growing use of the HRST. As the leading nursing journal, Journal of Nursing Measurement focuses on addressing instrumentation, tools, and approaches in regard to nursing, research practice, and education.

The efficacy of the HRST to predict mortality was validated by a study of 12,582 people with IDD residing in the state of Georgia. The study results showed that the HRST can predict mortality through health risk assessment. Therefore, it can serve as a basis for establishing healthcare needs and determining nursing care acuity for people with IDD.

Risk and Mortality with IDD and COVID-19

People with comorbidities—which can be prevalent among those with IDD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—may be more susceptible to severe illness and death from COVID-19.(3)

According to Dr. Escudé, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities encounter common challenges that put them at a higher risk for illnesses like COVID-19.

Other leading experts on the topics of aging and intellectual disabilities agree that people with IDD are particularly vulnerable to adverse outcomes associated with COVID-19. (4)

Performing a health risk screening on someone with IDD determines their level of risk as well as provides actionable steps to mitigate that risk from a number of different conditions. This data can be used to reroute scarce human and financial resources to where they will be most effective. This not only lowers the risk for people with IDD, but it also helps lower the spread of COVID-19 for the general population.

Furthermore, for those who have relied on the HRST prior to COVID-19, many are already seeing the advantages of having the resource available throughout the crisis, such as with the nonprofit organization, CADES (Children and Adult Disability and Educational Services).

“We implemented HRST two years ago, and it has been our foundation through this pandemic, and for that we are so grateful. Keep leading us!” says Julie Alleman, MSS, the CEO of CADES. Such testimonials show just how beneficial the HRST tool can be when it comes to reducing risks for those already faced with the challenges of IDD, especially during such critical and uncertain times.

“We are all in this fight against COVID-19 together,” Dr. Escudé says. “With each state knowing a proven way to identify those most at risk for serious consequences from illnesses such as COVID-19, they’re empowered with action steps to help mitigate that risk.”

(1) Dan Wheelahan. “People with intellectual disability are twice as likely to die a preventable death,” UNSW Sydney Newsroom, February 8, 2017,newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/health/people-intellectual-disability-are-twice-likely-die-preventable-death

(2) Roszkowski, Michael J., PhD, Thomas, Michael M., MS, Conroy, James W., PhD, Ivy, Catherine, MS, LCSW, Gravitt, Gwendell W.Jr., PhD. An Examination of the Validity of the Health Risk Screening Tool: Predicting Mortality in People With Intellectual Disabilities, Journal of Nursing Measurement, Springer Publishing Company Connect, March 16, 2020, connect.springerpub.com/content/sgrjnm/early/2020/03/16/jnm-d-18-00088

(3) Blythe Bernhard. “Coronavirus Brings Added Worries For People With Disabilities” Disability Scoop, March 17, 2020, disabilityscoop.com/2020/03/17/coronavirus-brings-added-worries-disabilities/27989/
Deborah Condon. “COVID-19 and intellectual disabilities Particularly vulnerable group,” Irishhealth.com, Mar 23, 2020, irishhealth.com/article.html?id=27072

Source: Health Risk Screening, Inc.

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