This article is written by Aaron Smith.
Online pharmacies are fast becoming a way to take charge of both your health and your healthcare costs. A far cry from the mail-order “medications” advertised in the back of magazines for decades, modern online pharmacies are licensed and regulated. They provide the same high-level of service and safety you’re used to from a brick and mortar pharmacy, but at a lower price point.
While some medical systems and insurance carriers are establishing their own online pharmacy networks to reap the savings for themselves, more and more patients are turning to cash-cost online pharmacies that offer lower prices without the hassle and paperwork of insurance to save both time and money on the pharmaceuticals they need.
What is an online pharmacy?
Online pharmacies look remarkably similar to the filling area behind the counter at your local pharmacy, with more stock and extra automated systems to improve efficiency. Your prescription is verified by a licensed pharmacist who compares its active ingredients, dosage, and your doctor’s prescribing instructions to safe medical protocols. It’s then filled using top-tier medication from trusted manufacturers. Once filled, it is rechecked to ensure it was filled with the correct medication and quantity, then securely and discreetly packaged for shipping.
Why people choose an online pharmacy
Online pharmacies offer a range of benefits to attract potential customers. Because they put more of the control for your health and wellness in your own hands, every patient finds their own reason for choosing to fill their prescriptions over the internet. A few of the most popular are:
1. Limited Mobility
While they may be in the same town, getting to the pharmacy isn’t easy for everyone. Online pharmacies ship prescriptions discreetly to your door, foregoing potentially uncomfortable trips for those with limited physical abilities or mobility issues. In addition, it can allow a caregiver, such as a child living far away from their loved one, to purchase the medication they need.
2. Wider Availability
Local pharmacies contract with medication suppliers who offer service in their area. This is usually only one or two wholesalers, which can sometimes lead to shortages. Online pharmacies deal in larger bulk and can work with wholesalers or manufacturers, in some cases, increasing the likelihood that your medication will always be in-stock.
3. Lower Prices
Prescription costs continue to rise for the same medications patients are already taking. Online pharmacies operate more efficiently due to the concentration of stock, infrastructure, and personnel as well as the adoption of the latest in automation and pharmacy technology. This lets them offer costs to the consumer far lower than most local pharmacies. In addition, many do not accept insurance, further driving down costs and giving patients cash prices that can rival some copayments.
4. No Prior Authorizations
For pharmacies that do not deal with insurance, this means there’s no claims process to slow down your prescription and no prior authorization process to derail it. Prior authorizations are cost saving measures insurance companies adopt forcing your prescriber to change your treatment or justify the medication you prescribe. This process can take weeks to get approval for just a single fill.
How to use an online pharmacy
Getting started using an online pharmacy is an easy and safe process.
- Plan for the change. Any change in pharmacies should be planned. Talk to your caregivers and family members about your wishes. Consider the pharmacy you plan on using and allow enough shipping and handling time to ensure you don’t run out of medications in the meantime.
- Talk to your physician. Speak with your doctor about your plan to use an online pharmacy. Your physician will need to write a prescription that includes enough quantity and refills to allow you to get the medication you need. Often a 90-day supply with 4 refills will cover an entire year, with orders only being needed once a quarter.
- Verify your pharmacy carries your medication. Visit their website and type in your medication and the strength. If carried, you’ll be able to see the manufacturer, available dosages, and details about your prescription. You’ll see the price you’ll pay for the prescription, with no insurance markups, denials, or surprises to come.
- Place your order. At this point, you’ll order your medication and send your prescription to the pharmacy in their specified manner, usually via email or fax. You’ll also remit payment via card, wire transfer, or other payment options they have in place.
- Your order is filled. A licensed pharmacist will review the order, contacting you or your physician for more information if necessary. Once your prescription is filled, it will be sent to you in discreet packaging.
- Watch for your prescription. A tracking number may be provided that lets you see the progress of your medications on their journey. You’ll know when to expect your medications and can make normal arrangements with the carrier for delivery as allowed by their policies.
- Don’t forget your refills. Consider the amount of shipping and handling time it took for your initial order, then set a reminder to allow you time to order your refills and have them safely arrive before your current supply runs out. This way you get the same quality and consistency you enjoyed locally, but with greater savings and convenience.
For many people, using an online pharmacy to manage their maintenance medications for chronic illnesses is the right choice for their health and budget. With a little planning, you can take an active role in saving your healthcare dollars and managing your own wellness resources. Talk to your doctor about transitioning to online filling, and put yourself in the driver’s seat.
Author bio: Aaron Smith is an LA-based content strategist and consultant in support of STEM firms and medical practices. He covers industry developments and helps companies connect with clients. In his free time, Aaron enjoys swimming, swing dancing, and sci-fi novels.