Meeting the Challenges in Behavioral Health Care With Hybrid Pharmacy Approach

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The hybrid pharmacy model represents a significant step forward in providing the best possible care for individuals struggling with behavioral health conditions, ultimately improving their outcomes and overall well-being.

The behavioral health industry is confronted with a multitude of hurdles that make it difficult to effectively respond to the escalating demand for services. From limited access to specialized pharmacies to staffing shortages and the critical issue of substance abuse, these challenges underscore the need for innovative solutions to improve the quality and accessibility of behavioral health services.

Image credit: elenabsl | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: elenabsl | stock.adobe.com

Some of these difficulties include:

Limited Access to Specialized Pharmacies

With the limited availability of specialized pharmacies in some areas, access to medications tailored to the unique needs of individuals with mental health disorders is not always guaranteed.

Focused Distribution of Drugs

Distributing drugs in a responsible way involves striking a balance between ensuring controlled access to medications, especially those with the potential for misuse or diversion, while also maintaining availability for those with genuine therapeutic needs.

Staffing Shortages

The health care industry, in general, grapples with staffing shortages, and behavioral health is no different. This makes it difficult to provide adequate care and support for individuals with mental health issues, further straining an already overwhelmed system.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse remains a significant challenge within the behavioral health sector, as individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders require integrated treatment approaches to address both issues effectively.

Some institutions overcome these complications by establishing an on-site pharmacy, but this requires a large population to justify and significant financial resources to maintain. Other facilities rely on large-scale retail pharmacy outlets, but these are not only an impersonal solution, they often lack access to or simply don’t stock specialized medications, such as long-acting injectables.

If on-site pharmacies are out of reach for many facilities, and central-fill locations are ill-equipped to handle all of the complex needs of individuals struggling with behavioral health conditions, how is the industry to move forward with a high standard of care?

The answer may lie in a hybrid solution. Hybrid pharmacies are able to fill more than one role within the health care 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. This gives a hybrid model the flexibility to fit a multitude of situations, and better serve both overworked staff and individuals seeking care.

Benefits of the Hybrid Approach

Providers of behavioral health services who find that their current approach to pharmacy is not serving the needs of their population, the benefits of a hybrid pharmacy are worth considering. For example:

1. Enhanced Personal Care and Satisfaction

The hybrid model can tailor services to the unique needs of every individual. Behavioral health conditions often require specific expertise and monitoring. When long-acting injectables are administered, for example, sometimes regular blood draws are required to monitor for potential adverse effects. A collaboration with a hybrid pharmacy gives behavioral health facilities access to more experts and resources, allowing them to elevate the quality of care and improve satisfaction ratings.

2. Coordinated Medication Management

Individuals who struggle with behavioral health conditions often have complex treatment and medication regimens with multiple prescriptions. A hybrid pharmacy can offer both practical and technological solutions to help make that process more streamlined. By synchronizing refills, packaging medications together and delivering everything in a single package, a specialized, hybrid pharmacy ensures individuals get the right medications in the simplest form. Other tools, such as Medherent, a remote medication adherence platform designed for behavioral health populations, can be implemented in individual rooms or common spaces to dispense medication on a one-to-one basis. Better management means better adherence and, in turn, better outcomes.

3. Cost Reduction

By improving medication adherence, the hybrid approach translates into reduced hospitalizations and emergency room visits, leading to overall cost savings for payers. Optimizing medication management processes, integrating cutting-edge technologies, and offering financial assistance services also saves valuable staff time. This can equate to up to 7.6 fewer hours of staff time per consumer per month,1 a substantial gain, especially during times of pervasive staffing shortages. The hybrid model also enhances efficiency by assuming various tasks that would otherwise burden health care agencies, such as verifying lab results and synchronizing prescription refills.

4. Size is Not an Issue

Unlike traditional models that often require a specific population size to justify on-site services, the hybrid approach stands as a flexible solution that adapts seamlessly to communities of any scale. Whether catering to a smaller or more extensive serious mental illness (SMI) population within a given geographical area, the hybrid model ensures that specialized support is accessible to all individuals in need, regardless of the facility's size.

Implementing a Hybrid Model

The right type of pharmacy system is essential for the proper care of individuals struggling with behavioral health. If hybrid is right for an organization, there is no reason to put off making the switch. One of the benefits of a hybrid pharmacy model is, after all, the ability to be flexible for any given situation. Facilities who choose hybrid will be able to implement the tools that work in the order of priority needed.

Some of those tools include:

Innovative Technology

In the pursuit of enhancing behavioral health programs, pharmacy teams can harness the power of cutting-edge technology to augment their services.

Central-fill Pharmacy

A central-fill pharmacy acts as the backbone for a hybrid pharmacy model. With a centralized location and smart logistics, they can fill prescriptions for both large and small programs. Typically, a central-fill location serves a set geographical area to keep delivery times within an acceptably fast range. Those working in the central-fill pharmacy are involved in every step of the care process, from assisting with prior authorizations and insurance restrictions to ensuring continued access to life-changing medications.

On-site Pharmacies

Sometimes very large or very remote sites simply cannot manage without an in-house pharmacy to dispense needed medications in a timely manner. When this is the case, a hybrid company can set up, staff, and manage the dispensary in a way that maximizes both financial resources and personnel.

Conclusion

By embracing a hybrid pharmacy model, providers of behavioral health services can significantly improve the quality of care they offer. The ability to tailor services to individual needs, streamline medication management, and reduce costs not only benefits patients but also helps health care agencies operate more efficiently, especially during times of staffing shortages.

In a field where the stakes are high and the challenges are complex, the hybrid pharmacy model emerges as a flexible, effective, and person-centered solution. It represents a significant step forward in the journey to provide the best possible care for individuals struggling with behavioral health conditions, ultimately improving their outcomes and overall well-being.

About the Author

Christy Rosado joined Altruix in 2022 as President, Long-Term Care Pharmacy; Chief Marketing Officer. In her role, Christy is responsible for oversight of the long-term care pharmacy operation and market positioning. She has over 25 years of experience in the pharmacy industry, with the past 12 years focused on behavioral health pharmacy. Christy began her career in 1994 as store manager for CVS Pharmacy. From 1998 to 2010, she worked for Rite Aid Pharmacy, holding several positions including Training Store Manager, Regional Trainer, Front End Supervisor, Regional Pharmacy Recruiter, District Manager and Pharmacy District Manager. Her most recent position prior to Altruix was as Senior Vice President of Sales for Genoa Healthcare, a United Healthcare – OptumRx company.Before her departure from Genoa, she led growth for the organization from 40 pharmacies to over 600 locations. Christy’s strong leadership skills have propelled her through a successful career, but it’s her passion for connecting with people and delivering on Altruix’s mission that truly makes a lasting impact. Her own personal experience has resulted in her love for the community Altruix serves. In the words of her favorite Bryan Adam’s song, “Everybody needs somebody.” Christy graduated from Danville Community College in 1991, majoring in Marketing.

Reference

Better Outcomes, Lower Costs Remote Medication Monitoring with MedherentTM. Altruix. (2023, October 10). https://altruix.com/medherent-whitepaper

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