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How to Develop a Medicine Delivery App

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Anastasia Osypenko
Market Researcher

Statistics show that an increasing number of people are buying medications online or are interested in doing so. According to a Zion Market report, the global e-pharmacy market, with an estimated worth of $42 billion in 2018, is expected to reach $107 billion by 2025.

However, convenient solutions for ordering and purchasing prescription drugs online are few and far between. Developing a medicine delivery app is a promising area: people tend to make purchases via mobile and this particular niche isn’t fully tapped. For example, in the US, 64 per cent of customers take prescription drugs or live with someone who does but only 4 per cent have bought medications online.

To a certain extent, the lack of solutions is the result of the industry’s regulatory specifics. We described how healthcare app compliance works in our previous post.

Since prescription drugs are part of people’s health and well-being, they want trusted, secure, and registered platforms to buy from. Even Millennials, a tech-driven, app junkie generation, are sceptical when it comes to purchasing medication via mobile.

Let’s explore how pharmacy delivery applications can deal with the issues of trust and security and the value they bring to people’s lives.

Benefits of Home Delivery Medicine Apps

Ordering medication via an app saves time, preserves privacy, and offers greater control over the process. There are instances when a person needs to visit a pharmacy, such as when compounded medicines are required, but in most cases, mobile ordering has the edge when it comes to benefits:

  • Price comparison. Some pharmacies price an item higher than others, with a comparison search, people can find the best deal. There’s a downside to this benefit though, customers can order cheaper drugs from outside their home country, which can be illegal (a common problem in the US). Or they may fall into the trap of unrealistically low prices from unauthorised sellers.
  • Privacy. Some people feel uncomfortable buying medication in front of others and prefer to order from the comfort of their homes.
  • Travel cost and time savings. Apps for purchasing medicine online save time travelling to a brick-and-mortar store and then waiting in line. It’s especially convenient for people living in remote areas.
  • Better chronic illness management. Patients with diseases requiring long-term pharmaceutical control can order a 90-day supply online instead of a 30-day supply available offline. Plus, they will often receive a bulk-buy discount.
  • Automatic refills. Most online medicine apps and mail-order pharmacies provide an automatic refill option. Automated payments or scheduled notifications save people from running out of drugs or forgetting to renew a prescription.

Pharmacies benefit from delivery applications too. They can attract more loyal customers to their brand, gather statistics, and reduce medical waste. When planning your home-delivery medicine app development, you can focus on a particular traditional pharmacy or partner with different pharmaceutical providers to create a new service.


How Does Medicine Delivery Work?

As we argued in our logistics app development post, Uber crafted a solution many industries seek by connecting services and customers directly and the ability to track routes. Medicine delivery can also work somewhat like Uber does: a user sets a profile, completes an order, pays for it, and tracks its delivery in real time.

Although, medication delivery is more complicated than Uber’s transport services. First and foremost, each customer should provide a valid prescription which is then checked by a licensed pharmacist. Nationally regulated systems govern the rules around electronic prescriptions and online prescription exchange. If a mobile platform doesn’t ask for a prescription, it doesn’t abide by the law and should be avoided.

Medicine delivery can also form part of telehealth apps: patients can seek the advice of a qualified medical professional and order their drugs in one place. Clearly, this is a complicated field of development which requires input from healthcare professionals.

How Prescription Drug Delivery Apps Make Money

Online medicine shopping apps generally follow one of these five business models:

  • Apps for pharmacy chains that want to engage with customers and facilitate online orders (eg. Walgreens)
  • Apps for telemedicine platforms combining online consultations with pharmacy delivery (eg. Lemonaid)
  • Apps for drug product manufacturers entering the market
  • Apps for specific prescriptions such as contraception or vitamins (eg. Nurx)
  • Apps for a region or country that bring together different pharmacies and insurers so patients can manage all their prescriptions in one place (eg. Zipdrug in New York, NowRX in California, and PillPack which tries to cover all the states).

Transforming the traditional pharmaceutical purchase process is primarily about saving patients costs and worries, so traditional business models, which rely on subscriptions or in-app customer spend, are not the best answer for drug delivery startups. Popular US-based pharmacy home delivery apps PillPack and Capsule charge users for medication but don’t add any fees for their service.

PillPack app, which was recently acquired by Amazon for $100 million, used a monthly subscription business model in their early days. But with enough customers, such platforms can make money like any existing retailer; from the fee included in the cost of medication. Now, PillPack claims to take care of sorting and delivering drugs without additional charges, customers just pay their insurance copays or out-of-pocket expenses.

Nurx, which offers birth control and STI tests, also provides delivery for free. The app’s founder sees financial benefits in partnering with pharmacies and insurers who are charged for exposure on Nurx.

Some apps for ordering medicine online do take delivery fees or make money thanks to subscriptions. For instance, two Australian pharmacy delivery applications, Tonic and PharmacyPal, charge an additional fee. Applications like Care/of selling vitamin packs also add service fees. Care/of wins over users with its personalised touch and offers various subscriptions with the price dependent on the number and type of vitamins a customer needs.

Sponsored listings and in-app ads can also generate revenue (these models are used in medication apps in India) but this approach contradicts the whole idea of transparent and trustworthy pharmacies that want to improve the process and not stimulate users to pay more.

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Features of a Medicine Delivery App

To develop a medication delivery application, you will need three separate versions for patients, pharmacies, and delivery providers, and a backend for storing user data. Let’s see which features you have to implement.

The customer version should include the following:

  • Profile. To start using the app to buy medicine online, a patient completes a profile specifying their name, delivery address, and other details. It should be connected to EHR systems like My Health Record or Best Practice.
  • Prescription. Patients can either send their electronic prescription or scan it with their camera. It’s already common practice in Australia.
  • Insurance coverage. Since insurance covers some medications, you will need to integrate your program with insurance providers.
  • Search. Users will need a search system with autocomplete to look for certain medications, their prices, and delivery accessibility.
  • Provider pages. If it’s not a branded app for a particular pharmacy, there should be pages for each pharmaceutical provider with relevant information about the company and the medicines they offer. The terms of delivery should also be mentioned.
  • Payments. Users expect to navigate an online medicine delivery app like any ecommerce platform: they need a cart (with information on dosage, quantity, and cost) and convenient payment methods.
  • Scheduled deliveries. Usually, drug ordering apps offer a three-hour (or more) delivery window. Urgent medicine delivery apps can offer day-to-day delivery.
  • Map. If an app offers order tracking, it needs such an integration. Learn about choosing a map API from our blog post.
  • Notifications. When buying medication on a regular basis, customers appreciate reminders about future orders. Users should also have the option to set automatic orders: when they run out of meds, the system will automatically order new ones and charge the card used for previous payments.
  • Ratings. Delivery quality is essential. There have been reported errors and meds have been delivered to the wrong person or have violated drug packaging rules. Customers should be able to report errors and rate services they were satisfied with.
  • Contact form. One of the elements needed to establish credibility and trust is contact information so people can reach out and ask questions.
  • Refund query. The app has to include a clear refund policy and a specific section where customers can claim a refund.

The delivery agent version has to feature:

  • Profile. Deliverers should have proven identities and secure personal profiles. In these profiles, they can set available hours and the area they cover.
  • Map and navigation. A delivery agent should be able to build a route to pharmacies and customers. For more details about navigation functionality, read our post on navigation app development.
  • Notifications. When an order is confirmed by a pharmacy, a delivery agent receives a notification.

In the pharmacy admin version, the following features are needed:

  • Editable pharmacy page. For customers to choose a particular pharmaceutical provider, there should be informative pages about the available prescription drugs, their sources, and terms of delivery.
  • Order management. A licensed pharmacist has to verify each prescription and confirm orders. The system should be capable of receiving prescription files, accepting or denying orders, and modifying dosages or the number of items.
  • Stats and reports. For efficient operation and communication with customers, there should be an option to gather user data to analyse current needs for certain medications.

Any medicine ordering application also needs a powerful, scalable backend solution to store and manage data.

How to Make a Successful Medicine Delivery App

Before anything else, your medicine delivery app should be compliant. There are national regulatory bodies responsible for drug production and distribution (the Food and Drug Administration in the US, the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia, the General Pharmaceutical Council in the UK etc. Review their guidelines before delving into development. Another aspect of success is the right focus. We described the possible areas of pharmacy app development above.

When building a trusted app, provide registration logos and contacts. To boost loyalty among customers, introduce a rewards program, such initiatives work for prescription drugs too, Walgreens implemented a loyalty program via their app offering discounts to people using mobile wallets for payment.

Since the market isn’t flooded with medicine delivery applications, you can win the market share by developing a mobile solution for a region without one or for a pharmacy that is just starting to go mobile. In areas with several strong competitors, you will need to analyse the existing applications and find a unique value proposition.

If you’re looking for an experienced medicine delivery app development company, drop us a line. At MadAppGang we’ve worked on several healthcare projects and know the industry and what it takes to make a trustworthy product.

18 December 2019