Health care policy
Across the US, 30%, or approximately one third of people meet the criteria for at least one mental illness.1 Of those with severe mental illness (SMI), namely schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the mortality rate is more than twofold compared to the general population.2 The cardiovascular risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular related deaths, including metabolic disease and type II diabetes, are not only modifiable, but staggeringly higher for those with SMI.3 Though antipsychotic drug prescription is the standard protocol for SMI treatment, such drug effects on cardiovascular risk factors and related deaths exacerbate the much higher mortality rate for the severely mentally ill population. Due to both the prevalence of SMI and the physical comorbidities that it entails, analysis of healthcare costs associated with this population are an essential part of general health and policy improvement for the U.S. Therefore, a breakdown of the healthcare costs of this population requires not only acknowledgment of the modes of treatment for mental illness specifically, but also the identification and cost-analysis of the commonly associated physical comorbidities. This is especially important considering SMI is almost always considered chronic, and many SMI patients qualify for either Medicare, Medicaid, or both. Certain gaps in coverage can lead to lack of preventive care, exacerbating the cost burden. From a clinician’s perspective, assessing relevant scientific studies and reviews to change the relationship between primary care and psychiatry is necessary to dampen the high mortality rate of the SMI population. From a policy-maker’s perspective, analyzing the cause and effect balance between managing costs of care directed at the SMI itself against the adjunct costs from physical comorbidity calls for a change in the structure of therapeutic care and how the SMI population accesses primary care.
The Collaborative Care model is a health care model that unifies psychiatric, behavioral, and primary care to support the mental, behavioral, and physical health of patients. By supporting holistic healthcare, the high cost of care for the SMI population will be diminished. The model includes four parts: patient-centered care, populationbased care, measurement-based treatment to target, and evidence-based care. Swapping oral antipsychotics with injectable versions will be especially cost-effective by improving adherence rates, and thus, reducing institutionalization and other hospitalizations. By enforcing the Collaborative Care model through community health center interventions, clinicians and policy makers will be able to work together to effectively leverage the health of the SMI population while eroding the high health care expenditure that this population currently imposes on states.