hybrid pharmacy model pharmacist talks on phone with provider

In a world with hybrid cars, jobs, banks, cameras, and even airplanes, it is no surprise that “hybrid” has become a buzzword in behavioral health. In the context of pharmacy care, hybrid means the ability to fill more than one role within the healthcare community. Instead of a single approach, a hybrid pharmacy can be both a central-fill and on-site solution while offering medication adherence and other care coordination functions.

Until recently, behavioral health facilities have had two options–build an in-house pharmacy or partner with a central-fill vendor for all their medication needs. Both have advantages and challenges, so the right option depends on the type of services an organization needs.

A hybrid approach that leads with a central-fill model and offers on-site pharmacies when needed can cater to the individual site’s needs. Combine a hybrid approach with innovative technology, and you create a system that works for both the care team and the individuals they serve.

Challenges Facing the Behavioral Health Industry

The behavioral health industry plays a critical role in providing care and support to individuals with mental health and substance abuse disorders. However, it faces several challenges that hinder its ability to effectively meet the growing demand for services. Some of the key challenges include:

  • Limited Access to Specialized Pharmacies

Not every facility has the resources or infrastructure to establish and maintain specialized pharmacies on-site. The expense of an in-house pharmacy solution does not make sense for smaller communities. However, relying on retail locations leaves smaller clinics without the specialized medications, expertise, and personalized care needed for effective treatment.

  • Focused Distribution of Drugs

Certain drugs used in behavioral health treatment require a focused distribution point. Manufacturers and payers often determine the need for such distribution based on factors like cost, expertise, and access to the market. This creates logistical challenges for facilities as they need to ensure they have access to these drugs while meeting the requirements for distribution.

  • Staffing Shortages

Like the rest of the healthcare industry, behavioral health clinics face significant staffing shortages, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other professionals. According to the National Council for Wellbeing, almost half of workers reported considering a job change due to staffing shortages. The scarcity of qualified personnel can limit the availability and accessibility of services, leading to longer appointment wait times and reduced quality of care.

  • Substance Abuse

Substance abuse disorders are complex and require specialized care and treatment. However, limited access to specialized pharmacies, scarcity of addiction medicine specialists, and inadequate funding for substance abuse programs pose significant barriers to providing comprehensive and evidence-based treatment for individuals struggling with substance abuse.

Independent pharmacies like Altruix can help to address each of these issues with a combination of on-site and central-fill options with supporting services.

Implementing the Hybrid Pharmacy Model

The hybrid pharmacy model offers numerous benefits for healthcare organizations, individuals, and caregivers. This innovative approach combines centralized medication fulfillment services, on-site pharmacy support when needed, and innovative technology to provide specialized care and improved medication management.

  • Central-fill Pharmacy: A central-fill pharmacy acts as the backbone for a hybrid pharmacy model. These large, closed-door pharmacies fill prescriptions for both large and small programs, independent of size, and are located within a set radius of the programs served to ensure fast delivery. Teams within the central-fill pharmacy act as integral parts of the care team, helping individuals navigate prior authorizations and insurance restrictions, access life-changing medications, and find financial support.
  • On-site Pharmacy: The hybrid model uses on-site pharmacies when necessary for the unique needs of a population, but they are never a requirement or central to the model. On-site pharmacies require a large enough patient population and help make sure any medications needed as soon as possible are available.
  • Innovative Technology: To support behavioral health programs, pharmacy teams can offer technology that improves an individual’s adherence, independence, and quality of life. For instance, Medherent, Altruix’s remote medication adherence platform, offers cloud-based clinical software, smart in-home hardware, and full-service logistics and support staff. This adherence platform has helped individuals achieve 90% adherence, reduced staff time needed to manage medications, and reduced ER and hospital costs.

Advantages of a Hybrid Pharmacy Model

Let’s explore the advantages of the hybrid pharmacy model in more detail.

  1. Size is Not an Issue: One of the major benefits of the hybrid pharmacy model is that it is not constrained by the size of the population it serves. The hybrid model instead can cater to any population size. Whether it’s a small or large behavioral health Serious Mental Illness (SMI) population, the hybrid pharmacy model can adapt to the needs of the community within a given geographical area. This ensures that individuals in need have access to the specialized support they require, regardless of the agency’s size.
  2. Enhanced Personal Care and Satisfaction: The hybrid pharmacy model improves the quality of care and impacts satisfaction ratings by providing specialized pharmacy services tailored to the unique needs of individuals with behavioral health conditions. Medications used in these conditions often require specific expertise and monitoring. For instance, medications like Clozapine, which require regular blood draws due to potential side effects, necessitate the involvement of a pharmacy partner specialized in this area. By partnering with independent pharmacies specializing in behavioral health, individuals receive focused attention and better outcomes.
  3. Coordinated Medication Management: The hybrid pharmacy model facilitates more effective medication management, particularly for individuals in group therapy programs or residential units. For example, the pharmacy can synchronize prescription refills, package medications together, and deliver them in a single packet. This approach minimizes the number of deliveries and ensures that everyone has their medications readily available. A hybrid approach also leaves room for technological solutions. For example, Medherent, a remote medication adherence platform built specifically for behavioral health and intellectual and developmental disability populations, can be installed in individual rooms or even in rooms to dispense medication at a 1:1 scale. Coordinated efforts and innovative processes lead to improved adherence and reduce the likelihood of missed doses and other medication errors.
  4. Cost Reduction: By improving medication adherence, hospitalizations and emergency room visits are reduced, resulting in overall cost savings for payers. Moreover, by streamlining medication management processes, integrating new technologies, and providing financial assistance services, the hybrid pharmacy model saves valuable staff time––up to 7.6 fewer hours of staff time per month per consumer. This is particularly crucial at a time when staffing shortages are prevalent and efficiency is paramount. The hybrid pharmacy model also enhances efficiency by taking on various tasks that would otherwise burden healthcare agencies, such as verifying lab results and synchronizing refills.


A hybrid pharmacy model helps to address the challenges faced by the industry and provide improved care for individuals with mental health conditions, substance abuse disorders, and intellectual & developmental disabilities. By combining centralized medication fulfillment services with on-site pharmacy support, independent pharmacies like Altruix can overcome the limitations of in-house pharmacies and retail solutions to provide specialized medications, expertise, and coordination of care.

As the behavioral health industry continues to evolve, the hybrid pharmacy model offers a logical next step in pharmaceutical care. By embracing this innovative approach, healthcare organizations can provide comprehensive and evidence-based treatment, ensuring that individuals receive the specialized care they need to improve their well-being.

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