Better coordination of acute, post-acute and long-term care for seniors with severe mental illness (SMI) could result in significant Medicare savings and better health outcomes, according to Avalere Health data recently released by The SCAN Foundation.

To compile the data, Avalere looked at 2010 Medicare information, dividing beneficiaries into three groups: those with severe mental illness, those without severe mental illness and those with severe mental illness and substance use disorders (SUD). Severe mental illness was defined as major depression, mood disorders or psychoses.

Beneficiaries with severe mental illness had Medicare costs three times greater than those who were mentally healthy, a number that was even higher for those with both mental illness and substance use disorder.

SMI and SMI/SUD beneficiaries also had a higher rate of hospital readmission.

These numbers suggest the importance of more carefully managing transitions between acute and post-acute care settings for seniors with severe mental illness, SCAN noted.

When it comes to increasing care plan compliance among residents with mental illness, cutting-edge technology may be able to help providers. Computer-animated relational agents called avatars have been shown to build resident trust and reduce hospital readmissions by increasing residents’ adherence to their care plan. Northeastern University’s Tim Bickmore, M.D., will provide more information about avatars in a March 20 webcast. This will be one of five webcasts offered March 20-21 as part of the seventh annual McKnight’s Online Expo. Continuing education credits are available for those attending these free sessions. Registration is ongoing at