What challenges population health decision makers face while managing patients with schizophrenia? How do they mitigate barriers?

What challenges population health decision makers face while managing patients with schizophrenia? What challenges worsened during COVID-19 pandemic? What strategies are recommended by decision makers to mitigate these challenges? My recent paper published in JMCP answers these and other questions.

My recent paper titled “Schizophrenia population health management: perspectives of and lessons learned from population health decision makers” published in JMCP shed light on current challenges and barriers population health decision makers face while managing patients with schizophrenia. This mixed methods research also highlights several strategies to overcome these challenges suggested by population health decision makers.

The abstract is below:

BACKGROUND: Despite therapeutic advances for patients with schizophrenia, improving patient outcomes and reducing the cost of care continue to challenge formulary decision makers.

OBJECTIVES: To (1) understand the perspectives of formulary decision makers on challenges to optimal schizophrenia population management and (2) identify best practices and recommendations for mitigating these challenges.

METHODS: This mixed-methods study, conducted in a double-blind manner, comprised in-depth telephone interviews with formulary decision makers from February through May 2020, and a web-based follow-on survey that was sent to all participants in October 2020. US-based formulary decision makers were recruited if they were directly involved in schizophrenia drug formulary or coverage decision making for national or regional payers, health systems, or behavioral health centers. Formulary decision makers’ perceptions of challenges, policies, and programs related to schizophrenia population health management were assessed generally and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RESULTS: 19 formulary decision makers participated in the interviews and 18 (95%) completed the survey. Participants reported a spectrum of patient- and payer-driven challenges in schizophrenia population health management, including medication nonadherence, high pharmacy and medical costs, and frequent hospitalizations and emergency department visits. Participants noted that COVID-19 had worsened all identified challenges, although patient unemployment (mean score of 2.00 on a scale of 1 [made much worse] to 5 [made much better]) and reduced access to psychiatric care (mean score, 2.12) were most negatively affected. The most common strategies implemented in order to improve schizophrenia population health management included case management (89%), telemedicine (83%), care coordination programs (72%), strategies to mitigate barriers to accessing medication (61%), and providing nonmedical services to address social determinants of health (56%). Participants noted that, ideally, all treatments for schizophrenia would be available on their formularies without utilization management policies in place in order to increase accessibility to medication, but cost to the health plans made that difficult. Whereas 61% of respondents believed that long-acting injectable antipsychotics (LAIs) were currently underused in their organizations, only 28% represented organizations with open access policies for LAIs. Participants believed that among patients with schizophrenia, LAIs were most beneficial for those with a history of poor or uncertain adherence to oral medications (mean score of 4.50 on a scale of 1 [not at all beneficial] to 5 [extremely beneficial]) and those with recurring emergency department visits and inpatient stays (mean score, 3.94). Study participants reported slightly increased use of LAIs (mean score of 3.17 on a scale of 1 [negatively impacted] to 5 [positively impacted]) among their patients with schizophrenia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; 29% of participants reported easing access restrictions for LAIs.

CONCLUSIONS: Participants described persisting challenges and various approaches intended to improve schizophrenia population health management. They also recommended strategies to optimize future health management for this population, including expanding programs to address social determinants of health and mitigating barriers to accessing treatment.

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