Danger of fatalities among individuals with IDD can be decreased with new tools, education

Oct. 13, 2020

People living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) have a much higher mortality risk compared to individuals without IDD, and specific tools, like the Health Risk Screening Tool (HRST) by Health Risk Screening, Inc. (HRS) have been developed to help screen these individuals for health risks and develop a plan of care to prevent them from occurring, reported HRS. 

Up to four percent of the United States population, or seven to eight million Americans, live with an IDD. The degree of mortality risk to a specific person can be measured in health care levels (HCLs), which, along with age, is important prognostically according to information gathered in the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities 2019 Annual Mortality Report; for every one-unit increase in HCL, there is a 75 percent increase in the odds of dying. Methods to predict such risk are essential for taking actionable steps to avoid harm and prevent death, according to HRS. 

The Georgia Annual Mortality Report found a significant increase in mortality in 2019 among people living with IDD. People with higher HCLs were found to have a group mortality rate exceeding that of the overall population mortality rate. But these findings don’t take the current pandemic into account. Other research shows that people living with IDD are more likely to contract COVID-19. And if they do develop an infection, these same individuals are 2-2.5 times more likely to die from the disease compared to individuals without IDD. 

Dr. Craig Escudé, President of HRS, says, “Even without the pandemic, people who live with IDD are at higher risk of mortality for a variety of reasons. Early identification of possible risk factors is the key to finding preventative actions that will help these people live longer with a better quality of life.” 

Doctors often point to the “fatal five” when discussing the most common causes of death among people living with IDD—these include aspiration, bowel obstruction, dehydration, seizures, and sepsis/infections. Unlike the top causes of death in the U.S., such as heart disease or cancer, these five conditions are more easily prevented. Additionally, individuals with IDD are more likely to have comorbid medical conditions which increase mortality risk, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and smoking-related maladies. 

HRS’s Health Risk Screening Tool (HRST) helps doctors, caregivers, and others measure various health risks associated with IDD which may prevent individuals from engaging in functional activities. Numerical ratings are calculated using a 22-item scale to discover an individual’s overall HCL. The higher the HCL, the more at risk the person is for events which may lead to death. However, the HRST doesn’t just identify a person’s risk level—it also provides actionable steps that can be used to guide treatment. 

For the seventh year running, the GA 2019 Annual Mortality Report found that the HRST accurately predicts mortality in individuals with IDD. 26 states, including Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, have already started using the tool to detect health risks earlier for people living with IDD. 

Escudé says, “Since the HRST predicts mortality, clinicians and other caregivers can use it to establish a person’s health care needs and determine the level of health care that’s appropriate. These actions serve as the basis for the development of a comprehensive plan of care that helps negate these risks.” 

Screening individuals with IDD early to determine risks to their health is essential for avoiding these risks and helping people with IDD live longer, healthier lives. To help providers, including non-IDD specialized physicians, and others learn more about the HRST and its predictiveness of mortality, HRS, Inc. will hold a news conference Wednesday, November 4, 2020, at 11:30 am EST. The event is intended to introduce the HRST, review the research that validates the tool, and answer any questions about screening individuals with IDD for specific health risks. Register for free at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3637507031700978443?source=PR

HRS has the tool