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Network Matters
News and Information for the
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Network

February 2017

Coordinating Care to Manage Weight Gain in Behavioral Health Patients

It is common for patients prescribed certain antipsychotic or antidepressant medications to gain weight. When a behavioral health condition requires long-term treatment, this weight gain can become substantial, which may increase the risk of serious physical comorbidities, as well as lead to other psychological issues or discourage the patient from continuing with treatment.

Early action and persistent monitoring are essential to combating such issues in patients who require mental health drug therapy. The best approach to preventing and managing weight gain and its effects in patients with psychological disorders is a multidisciplinary treatment plan involving collaboration between PCPs, the patients’ families, and behavioral health specialists.
Weight management strategies

Patients with chronic disorders such as major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder often choose to discontinue medication because of the significant weight gain resulting from it. Coordinating care between all the medical professionals working with these patients can keep them on track with their behavioral health treatment while managing their weight, but the most effective approach varies from patient to patient.

For some, the answer may be switching to a different antidepressant or antipsychotic to treat the patient’s mental health disorder, or co-prescribing a weight loss medication. For others, the key could be modifying diet and level of physical activity. Often, the optimal strategy for weight management in patients diagnosed with a behavioral health disorder is a combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological measures.

Working together

Early action is the most critical factor in keeping a patient’s behavioral health treatment on track while maintaining a healthy weight. PCPs can monitor a patient’s body weight from the start of behavioral health treatment to determine the risk for significant weight gain and work to control it. And the mental health professionals involved in treating a patient can regularly communicate with the patient’s PCP to ensure that his/her weight is under control, or to devise a clinical strategy for getting it back on track. With early action, routine monitoring, and a multidisciplinary approach involving collaboration between PCPs and behavioral health specialists, patients can see an improvement in their mental health without substantial weight gain.

How Optum/UBH can help your patients — For complex clinical situations, Optum/UBH is available to provide consultative assistance. Practitioners can call the Optum/UBH Physicians Consultation Service at 800-292-2922. To refer a patient for behavioral health services and to facilitate the coordination of care, call Optum at 888-777-4742.

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