System puts focus on bipolar prevention
Since July 2009, emergency department visits have decreased 40%, inpatient admissions by 62% and total inpatient days by 71% among bipolar patients seen through Heritage Valley Health System’s Staunton Clinic for behavioral health, in Moon Township, Pa.
To be more proactive in treating these patients, given their propensity to quickly deteriorate when early warning signs aren’t recognized, the clinic instituted a protocol aimed at preventing full-blown relapses. The dramatic results since the clinic’s Intensive Service Coordination Team implemented its methodology have garnered Heritage Valley the Spirit of Excellence Award for Quality.
“If they get ill and hospitalized, it’s a major setback to the person’s functioning level,” says Michael Fortunato, base service unit director. “If you can divert the person and keep them from reaching that acute level of illness, where they need to be hospi- talized, their recovery is more likely to be on a steady course, with much less disruption to their life.”
The new protocol encourages patients and their families to self-monitor and report in when certain symptoms arise, steps up training for them to do so, calls for more frequent contact with Intensive Care Management personnel and nurse medication checks, and aims to schedule appointments within 72 hours of signs of deteriorating mental health.
The clinic intends to apply this approach to other types of patients, starting with schizophrenics and schizoaffectives (combination schizophrenia and bipolar), but staff chose bipolar patients first because their tendencies are more cyclical, Fortunato says. “That was probably the population, starting off with