How to Build a Secure Online Pharmacy (Expert Guide on Pharmacy Apps)
3 months ago
What are you reading?
You are reading the outcome of combined efforts made by a market analyst, healthcare technology expert, and healthcare compliance consultant.
Why should you continue reading?
These 3 experts have answered questions about the market, technology and compliance which are the 3 major burdens for pharmacy app development in Canada, especially in Ontario and British Columbia.
So, let’s start with the first burden.
Expert 1: Market Analyst, Eliminating the First Burden - Market!
Question 1: What is the current market trend of the online pharmacy market?
Rather than giving you the numbered view of the online pharmacy market, I would prefer to talk about the ground reality.
In the last few months, I have noticed 2 major trends in the consumer pharmacy Industry.
● Trend 1: Multi-Purpose Pharmacy App
The sole purpose of the pharmacy app is to let patients order their prescriptions from the comfort of their homes. And this is exactly what we used to think and believe.
But a pharmacy app can satisfy many other healthcare needs of the patients. A USA-based digital healthcare company named Ro which calls itself a patient-driven telehealth company offers a multi-purpose platform to users. Using this platform, users can talk to doctors remotely and even order the prescriptions.
By integrating feature sets of telehealth app as well as online pharmacy app into a single platform, Ro has managed to multiply their revenue stream. Many are taking this business model to the next level by bringing healthcare eCommerce in the pharmacy app.
● Trend 2: RPA to Speed up the Prescription and Invoice Processing With Less Workforce
Whether it is a brick-mortar store or online pharmacy, prescription management, invoicing and reporting are the most time-consuming, tedious and repetitive tasks which eat up the resources.
To speed up the process and reduce human errors, pharmacies are now switching to RPA. RPA is nothing but the use of software bots to automate highly repetitive processes without human intervention.
Almost 95% of reduction in workforce requirement, error-free processes and highest-ever productivity are major three advantages of RPA.
To know more, you can read a dedicated blog on the use of RPA in healthcare.
Question 2: What are the top pharmacy apps in Canada?
Before developing your own pharmacy app, I would suggest studying all of these apps to draft a strategic business plan.
PocketPills is the most popular pharmacy app serving in Canada. It sorts medication by the dose and delivers it for free. PocketPills leverages workflow automation with RPA to satisfy the prescription delivery needs of the patients even with the minimum staff.
To develop the online pharmacy app like PocketPills, read this dedicated blog.
ALGO is a multi-purpose pharmacy app that enables patients to consult with physicians in addition to ordering prescriptions. To submit the order, the patient is needed to only upload the picture of the prescription. Like PocketPills, ALGO also does not charge for the delivery.
- Well.ca Pharmacy
Well.ca Pharmacy aims to save time and hassle by taking prescription orders online and delivering in on the same day or the next day. It labels doses with date and time it should be taken to ease the prescription management for the patients. It also facilitates easy prescription transfer between pharmacies.
- PillPack by Amazon
PillPack is the USA-based full-service online pharmacy owned by Amazon. Like other online pharmacies, it sorts medication by time and date. It also supports automatic prescription refills. PillPack also enables users to buy wellness items as PillPack is the multi-purpose app.
To develop a pharmacy app like PillPack, you can read a dedicated blog.
Question 3: Why would a user use an online pharmacy app?
Let’s address it with the ‘value proposition of the pharmacy app.’
- Price Comparison:
With an advanced search, a user can find the best deal on their desired drug or wellness equipment. Such practice is infeasible while a user buying drugs from a brick-mortar pharmacy store.
- Automatic Refills:
The automatic refills feature of the pharmacy app saves patients from running out of the drugs. It makes sure that a user receives another dose before he runs out of the first one.
- Medication Management
Before shipping, online pharmacies sort a user’s medication by date and time which makes it easy for users to take the right dose at the right time. The app also reminds users to take medication on time.
With a pharmacy mobile app, users can order prescriptions without leaving their homes and most importantly, without standing in queues at pharmacies.
Question 4: Is online pharmacy legal or illegal in Canada?
There isn’t any dedicated law that declares an online pharmacy legal or illegal. However, based on your business practice, the government can suspend your operation. For instance, if you sell prohibited drugs, employ non-certified pharmacists, and partner with pharmacies that do not have a valid licence given by the government, you will more likely receive a business termination order from authorities.
Expert 2: Technology Expert, Eliminating the Second Burden - Technology!
Question 5: What are the top pharmacy app features?
A pharmacy app has multiple user profiles (customer, admin and pharmacist). All of these users have different tasks to perform. Thus, there are different features in these 3 app modules.
Customer app features:
- Log in or Sign up
- Upload prescription
- Basic and Advanced search
- Drug information
- Place orders
- Order tracking
- Medicine reminder
Admin app features:
- Orden management
- Customer management
- Inventory management
- Pharmacists management
- Payment and Offer management
- Reporting and Analytics
Pharmacist app features:
- Log in or Sign up
- Order notification
- Order details
Question 6: How does a pharmacy app get drug information?
Needless to say that developers simply cannot add drug information manually in the app as there are thousands of drugs. Here, an API is a workable solution. An API retrieves drug data from several sources and the app shows the same drug information to users. TELUS Health Kroll is the most popular API to get drug information in Canada. Though it sounds easy, TELUS Health Kroll integration requires expertise which we have already attained.
Question 7: What is the tech stack of the online pharmacy app?
Selecting the right technology for pharmacy app development is very crucial as it influences the user experience and budget. Recently we developed a virtual healthcare platform named Writi with hand-picked technologies and Collision Conference recognized it as the Ontario-based top innovative company. The success of Writi depicts the importance of choosing the right technology.
- For user-friendly UI: React.Js
- For backend: PHP and PHP frameworks
- For database: Amazon RDS, MySQL
- For analytics: Mixpanel
- For payment: Stripe or PayPal
- For SMS: Amazon SNS
Here, it is worth mentioning that the technology stack ultimately depends on the type of pharmacy app you would like to develop, i.e. native app or a cross-platform app.
Question 8: What is the difference between the native pharmacy app and the cross-platform pharmacy app?
To develop a native pharmacy app, developers have to write code for two different platforms such as Android and iOS. Not only this but developers have to write code in two different languages as both platforms are compatible with different languages. This ultimately increases the development time, efforts and costs.
On the other hand, to develop a cross-platform pharmacy app, developers have to write code only for once using a cross-platform platform as a cross-platform app is compatible with both Android and iOS platforms.
Expert 3: Healthcare Compliance Consultant, Eliminating the Third Burden - Compliance!
Question 9: What is the difference between HIPAA, PIPEDA and PHIPA laws?
Since a pharmacy app must adhere to government privacy laws, you should know the difference between HIPAA, PIPEDA and PHIPA.
- HIPAA: It is applicable in the USA. It establishes a national standard for safeguarding the medical information which is stored or shared in electronic form.
- PIPEDA: It is applicable in Canada. It applies to all organizations that collect, use, and disclose personal information only during commercial activities.
- PHIPA: Imposed exclusively by the Ontario state government, it applies to only healthcare organizations that collect, use, and disclose personal health information.
Question 10: What are the regulations one should consider while pharmacy app development in Ontario or British Columbia?
The following are some of the regulations that your pharmacy app should adhere to.
- The online pharmacy website or app should provide the policy and procedure document for delivery, returns and complaints.
- The home page of the website or app must include accreditation number and owner, the physical location of the pharmacy including address and city/town, contact number to contact the pharmacy, designated manager and hours that a licensed pharmacist is available for consultation.
- The app or website should collect and share personal information of users only if they permit.
- Any information which isn’t important or does not serve the purpose should not be saved and shared.
- You should gain the ability to detect the data breach.
- There should be a predefined post-breach strategy.
- Any transaction error should be caught and stored.
There are many other complex requirements that are more complex to implement in the mobile app. A healthcare compliance consultant does not only decode the regulations but guides the development team to develop the app while meeting all regulatory requirements.
Here, I would like to share a case study that shares how my team has filled 47 security gaps in the healthcare app and assisted the development team to develop a HIPAA compliant healthcare app.
Before ending this blog, I would like to say thank you on behalf of my other team members (you know them as Expert 1 & Expert 2) for bearing with us. We hope that we have cleared all of your doubts related to the pharmacy app development. (If there is anything we missed out, you can contact us by filling out the following form.)
To end on a high note, I would like to share the screenshots of a pharmacy app we are currently developing.