Pharmacy applications: There’s an app for everything, it seems, these days. In the pharmacy sector, apps have already been in wide use for some years. As services move primarily online, the rising popularity of these apps for their convenience and accessibility is not missed by pharmacists who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet.
Online pharmacy options were already growing before the pandemic, and lockdowns have made them a critical piece of medical infrastructure that few pharmacies are going without. With a growing market of application vendors, the best apps are set apart by their features. From data protection compliance to inventory management capabilities, e-pharmacy apps should have the most critically important features available.
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Data Protection Compliance
Developing a custom mobile app in the pharmacy space is more complicated than other e-commerce projects. Applications around health and medicine must comply with patient privacy rules and medical standards such as:
- Medical Coding Compliance
- DEA Form 222: Prescription Drug Ordering
- The Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA)
- Electronic Prescription Compliance
- Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) Compliance
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules maintain the safety of patient information and ensure privacy for patient data. Information that can identify an individual patient, such as their name, address, or email address, must be strictly protected by applications.
Depending on the market and nature of the app, developers may need to follow General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules about electronic records. Failure to follow protection rules can lead to fines and other penalties for the pharmacy deploying the application, which is why it’s imperative to trust HIPPA compliant pharmacy app development experts who have experience building applications for the healthcare industry.
Patients frequently have questions about their prescriptions. A well-designed mobile app will provide ways for consumers to access the information they need at the touch of a button (or, more likely, a touch screen).
At a primary level, the apps connect patients to online information about their prescriptions. Patients can input the drug and learn more about its use, side effects, and proper dosage using a function such as barcode scanning.
The next level of connection might involve chatbots that allow the user to receive direct answers to specific questions. These bots will interpret the user’s queries and scrape pharmacy catalogs for helpful solutions. If users have not found what they are looking for or need more detailed instructions, scheduling features facilitate live consultation with a doctor or pharmacist.
The convenience e-Prescriptions (eRx) offers patients extend to prescribers and pharmacists as well. To fulfill prescription orders online and offer superior in-app services, e-pharmacy app developers need to integrate apps with custom eRx solutions or third-party APIs to facilitate services like those provided by Surescripts, NueMD, or MDToolbox..
On the patient side, patients driving from their doctor’s office to a brick-and-mortar pharmacy will be pleasantly surprised when the medicine is ready when they arrive. An e-prescription feature will minimize unnecessary trips to the doctor for people with chronic illnesses who need frequent refills and allow them to:
- Place orders and pay for them with inbuilt payment options
- Check on prescription order statuses
- Access private prescription order history information
- Access pharmacy information through third-party applications such as Google Maps
On the pharmacist side of the app, where security and dispensation accuracy are of the utmost importance, prescriptions are sent directly through the app to the Pharmacy Management System (PMS) to enable safe and secure transmissions of e-prescriptions and E-Prescriptions of Controlled Substances (EPCS).
ERx networks coordinated with Electronic Health and Medical Record (EMR/EHR) databases further aid with patient care as they help pharmacists to avoid filling prescriptions that cause dangerous drug interactions.
Payment and Shipping Integration
As more consumers—or in this case, patients—turn to online ordering and at-home delivery, pharmacists need tools that empower digital payments. For consumers to pay for online prescriptions orders, applications require a way to accept payments.
E-pharmacy apps integrated with payment gateways give consumers several payment options. Patients making a one-time purchase may want to use a credit card, while other consumers with standing orders may choose an electronic Fund Transfer (EFT). Using a third-party gateway frees pharmacies from worrying about dealing directly with financial transactions.
Pharmacy shipping and logistics also benefit from a well-designed and integrated app. A seamless connection with third-party shipping company Application Programming Interfaces (API) removes several steps from the delivery process. Instead of writing up the order and manually entering the shipping information, the app will pass relevant data directly to the shipper.
Shipping integration features also let customers track their orders, providing special instructions or making arrangements for pickup. Increased customer oversight and involvement in the shipping process also keeps medicines sensitive to temperature from sitting in the hot sun.
Tracking inventory is a fundamental piece of any e-pharmacy app. Pharmacies want medications to be in stock when patients need them. Usually, consumers are more likely to revisit the last place they filled a prescription. If their regular pharmacy does not have what they need, they will start a relationship with a competitor.
According to various laws and regulations, a pharmacy must also follow strict rules when dealing with painkillers and other controlled substances. They must keep an accurate record of the number of pills dispensed and the number in stock and adhere to National Drug Code (NDC) manifests for identifying pharmaceuticals. Failing to do so can create issues with law enforcement and state licensing boards.
An app can be a strategic piece of inventory management system implementation. The pharmacy staff will use smartphones and tablets as they fill each prescription. A barcode reader would verify that the medicine bottle matches the order information. The information the app sends to the database management system will trigger alerts about expiration dates or warnings about low inventory during the dispensing process.
Once they have counted, reported, and packaged the medication, the app will send the information to a label printer as a final step. The implementation of an inventory management system simplifies the dispensing process and allows the apps to utilize consistent, real-time inventory data.
Taking a Customized Approach to Online Pharmacy App Development
Both as an answer to challenges to the pharmacy industry and an acknowledgment of a growing digital infrastructure, the market share for online pharmacies will continue to grow as consumers enjoy the convenience of on-demand pharmacy services.
Adding a mobile app to an existing pharmacy management system is a way to bring clients in brick-and-mortar pharmacies into this market. A well-designed app will not only increase business but will also improve customer service and patient outcomes. Incorporating features like dosage scheduling, online consultation with a pharmacist, and barcode scanning will help patients stay informed and on track with their medications.
The need for online pharmacy app development will continue to grow as more consumers turn to the web to fill prescriptions. Custom mobile apps must comply with the same privacy and law enforcement standards as all digital products for the pharmacy industry. A well-designed solution will meet these requirements while offering features that benefit both pharmacists and customers. Vendors who can satisfy the software needs of local pharmacies will find a receptive market for their products.