Tracking bipolar disorder

 WellPoint is expanding its disease management program to provide tools and resources for its members who suffer from bipolar disorder.

Successful management requires identifying the right members and tracking them as close to real time as possible, said Michael Brase, MD, chief medical officer for Health Management Corp., or HMC, a WellPoint subsidiary and program administrator.

Healthcare IT enables clinicians to look at daily pharma runs, as well as hospital utilization data. The ability to track patients will not only help them adhere to their treatment program, but also will alert physicians of warning signs.

The expansion follows the successful pilots in Colorado and California, where ROI was above two to one, said Brase. With some variations between the states, the programs realized increases in medication adherence and decreases in mental health hospitalization and emergency department, medical and psychiatric outpatient use.

The cost of healthcare services consumed by those suffering from bipolar disorder is generally a factor of three to four compared to the general population, Brase said. Implementing treatment programs can help decrease costs, he said.

Tracey Moorhead, president and CEO of DMAA: The Care Continuum Alliance, said the program exemplifies the evolution of chronic condition care over the past decade of embracing multiple conditions and population-based approaches that cover the entire continuum of care.

“Health IT has become essential not only in population health management, but in all aspects of healthcare,” she said. “Chronic disease care, in particular, has led the HIT charge because so much of what we do revolves around effective communication, education and data analysis, all of which benefit from advances in technology.”

“This is a promising and interesting concept,” Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said of WellPoint’s program.

Medication non-adherence is a fundamental problem in the mental health field, Duckworth said. “We need better strategies and approaches to address this,” he said.

In Duckworth’s view, working models should be published in medical literature so the industry can learn about what is and isn’t working. “If this (WellPoint’s program) is a better way to do it, it will be widely adopted,” he said.