Konstantin Kalinin
Konstantin Kalinin
Head of Content
June 15, 2022

Does your spouse or partner have a charming habit of sending you a shopping list when you’re in the middle of something? The last time I got a list of pills, I thought, “There’s gotta be an on-demand app for this.” And you know what? Since then, my family has been shopping for medications exclusively through mobile apps, and I couldn’t be happier.

If you firmly believe in on-demand mobile software and want to learn how to make a pharmacy app that would make your customers happy, keep reading. We’ll cover the basics and share some insights.

 

Top Takeaways:

  • To develop an online pharmacy app, you will need to build two mobile apps (on iOS and Android) and a web application for managing the mobile apps. You might also consider a stand-alone application for couriers, but that’s optional.
  • The key challenge to creating a pharmacy app is to get buy-in from all stakeholders because the app will need to sync/integrate with back-office operations. Otherwise, the workload on the back-office side would increase dramatically.

 

Table of Contents:

  1. Online Pharmacy Apps Market Overview
  2. Types of Pharmacy Applications
  3. Benefits of Building a Pharmacy App
  4. Top 3 Pharmaceutical Mobile Applications
  5. Must-Have Features of an Online Pharmacy App
  6. Advanced Features of a Pharma App
  7. Challenges in Developing a Pharmacy App
  8. 5 Steps to Make a Pharmacy App
  9. How Much Does It Cost to Create a Pharmacy App

Online Pharmacy Apps Market Overview

The online pharmacy market is definitely on the rise. It grew from $50b in 2018 to $68b in 2020 and is expected to reach $178b in 2026. That’s a 250% increase.

online pharmacy market valuation

At the same time, the mHealth app market demonstrates rapid development too:

mhealth apps market size Interestingly, the epharmacy market still lags well behind in this process. According to the most recent research by Research2Guidance 2022 (Digital Health Business Outlook 2022), pharmaceutical apps (as part of digital pharmacies) are least likely to become a key trending digital health topic in 2022:

key trending digital health topics in 2022

See the 12% at the bottom? I don’t know about you, but that seems like a golden opportunity for me. Simply because there’s clearly a ton of unrealized potential.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made us so accustomed to mobile shopping and on-demand contactless delivery services that we expect no less from the pharmaceutical businesses. Ernst & Young says 75% of customers expect the same level of service from health providers that they enjoy at other companies.

Tech giants like Google and Amazon also have high hopes for pharmacy e-commerce:

  • Amazon acquired PillPack (one of the leading online pharmacies) in 2018
  • Google’s/Alphabet’s Wing (drone delivery) has partnered with Walgreens to launch a drone delivery service in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in April 2022

Pretty soon, pharmacies will have no option but to digitize their services by developing a pharmacy app.

Types of Pharmacy Applications

There’s not that big of a choice here. You can create a pharmacy app for your chain of pharmacies (think of it as a mobile storefront). Or you can start an aggregator app that would feature products from different pharmaceutical companies.

nowRX pharmacy app exampleThis way or another, you’ll end up with an e-commerce application where customers buy medicine because that’s the primary use case for an on-demand pharma application.

To be fair, I can still envision one more business model. You can partner up with a clinic and integrate their care provision services right into your pharmacy mobile app. For example, patients could hop on a video call with their doctor to get an in-app consultation on the prescribed meds. Your mobile pharmacy solution could even integrate lab tests and diagnostics.

Benefits of Building a Pharmacy App

To a casual customer, a medicine delivery app is a real boon. And not only to proverbial millennials. According to a 2020 AARP report, Americans aged 50 and older actively adopt consumer technology at rates close to those aged 18–49.

What about the benefits for pharmacies?

Increase sales

There are plenty of reasons to expect higher sales after building a pharmacy app:

  • Convenience of couch-commerce (aka mobile shopping)
  • Cross-selling and upselling based on user behavior
  • Lower costs of running/testing marketing campaigns
  • Geographic expansion across the country

pharmacy mobile app example

Improve customer loyalty

People love the convenience and stick with brands that bring lower prices and freedom of choice. In other words, help your customers avoid standing in lines, and they will praise you.

Lower operating costs

When everybody opts for an Uber economy, with goods and services arriving at their doorstep, can you get by with fewer resources at your brick-and-mortar locations? A pharmaceutical mobile app synced with a web portal will offer:

  • full transparency into your business performance and staff productivity
  • optimized internal processes, e.g., inventory management

Top 3 Pharmaceutical Mobile Applications

Let’s review top pharma apps and see if we can borrow any ideas for our custom pharma app. Unfortunately, mobile apps from pharmaceutical companies rarely make it to the top charts, so we have to go by monthly downloads. Walgreens (500K), CVS Pharmacy (400K), and Rite Aid Pharmacy (50K) are all top performers.

The pandemic caused a significant surge in downloads for these pharma applications, and they remain popular.

us pharmacy apps installs during COVID 19

Walgreens

You couldn’t expect less from the second-largest pharmacy store chain in the U.S., right? The app allows customers to shop for meds and manage prescriptions.

walgreens mobile pharmacy app example

Key features (besides shopping and tracking the delivery status):

  • Refill prescriptions by scanning a barcode
  • Pill reminders
  • Consultations with healthcare providers
  • Rewards and other perks

CVS Pharmacy

CVS is an app from the #1 pharmacy chain in the U.S. And it has definitely raised the bar for on-demand mobile pharmacy software.

CVS pharmacy app exampleKey features:

  • Prepay for prescriptions for more private pickup
  • Check drug information and interactions
  • Video chat with a health care provider 24/7
  • Order refills and prescription history

Rite Aid Pharmacy

Rite Aid is another well-known pharmacy network with a pharma app which has been around since 2012.

riteaid mobile pharmacy app exampleKey features:

  • prescription reminders
  • manage family members’ prescriptions
  • medical store locator
  • track bonus points balance

I encourage you to try out these leading mobile pharmacy marketplaces for buying medicines and pharmacy delivery so that you can get a feel of their UX/UI.

online pharmacy app development question banner 1

Must-Have Features of an Online Pharmacy App

All software has some typical features it can’t live without. What are the most common options people expect to find in a pharmacy app?

Sign-on and profile

We need an easy way to onboard new customers and store their data in the app: address, payment options, rewards balance, etc. This helps us personalize their experience and ensure uninterrupted service.

E-commerce

E-commerce (or m-commerce, if you will) encompasses all features related to shopping:

  • catalog of medicine
  • shopping cart
  • order history
  • smart-search with filters and previous searches

Prescription management

Users should be able to add their prescriptions to the app, and pharmacists will either verify them manually or with the help of AI/ML algorithms.

Order tracking

Consumers have really come to love tracking delivery in real-time on a map à la DoorDash, especially after COVID-19 lock-downs.

Notifications

Push notifications and medicine reminders keep customers engaged, prompting them to take pills, order medicines, or get discounts.

Localization

Multi-language support will help you reach larger audiences. Please note that this should be addressed from the get-go because the cost of adding new languages will increase dramatically once the app is ready. Make sure to partner with the right pharmacy app development company for that.

alibaba health pharma app example

Advanced Features of a Pharma App

Now let’s review more advanced functionality. Rather than being stand-alone features, these options typically enhance usability by extending the basic functionality.

Barcode scanning

This can be useful to quickly get info about prescription drugs, order a refill, or make a payment at a store.

Chat or video calls

Real-time customer support right inside the app boosts consumer confidence and makes patient assistance more accessible. In addition, you can offer telemedicine consultations with doctors or pharmacists.

Pickup orders

Paying for medicine in advance and then picking it up at a store is another advanced option your customer base may appreciate.

Social interactivity

Some customers love to share their experiences with other people. Therefore, allowing them to comment and review different products may prove beneficial.

Family accounts

An option to track medication adherence for senior family members and stock them up on meds from their separate apps can be a real blessing for many users.

Accessibility features

Apple and Google provide many tools for making mobile apps more accessible and inclusive. However, such an initiative goes way beyond a single option and should permeate all features.

online pharmacy application concept

Mobile wallet

You can also set up a mobile wallet so users can up their balances and turn on automatic refills. That’s also where you integrate health insurance coverage options and rewards.

Web portal for the business

Pharmacists and management will need a web application to manage quite a few things on their end, too:

  • order management
  • inventory management 
  • prescription verification
  • EHR integration
  • reports and analytics
  • CMS for content management
  • CRM to manage profiles
  • marketing tools for running promos and ads

Access to different areas of the pharmacist panel can be restricted based on user roles.

Challenges in Developing a Pharmacy App

Online pharmacy app development involves overcoming quite a few challenges. Here are the major factors we need to consider:

Support from all stakeholders

Everybody on the team needs to be on board with developing an online medicine app. This should include main stakeholders from sales and marketing, accounting, and other departments because it’s the only way for the software to increase efficiency on the pharmacy side.

mobile pharmacy app concept

Be ready to scale from day one

The app should be architectured to guarantee smooth up-scaling. Because you can’t let the app go offline after a massive influx of customers upon release. Ideally, the app’s infrastructure should scale up or down automatically, based on the number of active users.

Integration with existing e-commerce channels

Some pharmacies are likely to already have web-based e-commerce portals when they start a pharmaceutical application. Therefore, it makes sense to integrate with an existing CMS and other systems to update content in a mobile app and on the web simultaneously.

Adaptive UI

How do you design a pharmacy app that appeals equally well to baby boomers and millennials? The answer is a personalized and adaptive, user-friendly UI.

online pharmacy app development question banner 2

Changing regulatory environment

Regulations around data security change from time to time. And being ready to comply means having proven DevSecOps processes in place, when health data is secure during development and post-release — in customers’ hands.

5 Steps to Make a Pharmacy App

As for the software development process, online pharmacy application development is not much different from other apps. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • We are not just building a single mobile app

To start with, we need to cover iOS and Android to reach a wider audience. In addition, we’ll either integrate with an existing e-commerce site or build a web admin panel for physicians and managers from scratch.

  • HIPAA compliance is a must

We need to comply with the HIPAA requirements. And this applies to securing patients’ sensitive information in the apps (web and mobile) and protecting development and testing environments.

  • Keep design and development under the same roof

Over the last decade, I’ve seen too many projects fail or struggle to launch on time only because design and development were handled by separate teams.

online mobile app pharmacy concept

  • Use recommended third-party solutions

While busy with pharma app development, we’ll work on many features that don’t need to be built from scratch. Barcode scanning, tracking locations on a map, chatting, and many other options can be implemented using verified third-party libraries.

  • Follow the agile development principles

And last but not least, we need to stick with agile if we want to release in a timely fashion with an app that’s ready to generate real traction. Besides, the agile approach will be helpful as we continue to maintain the app.

Now, to the actual steps of e-pharmacy app development. These will look familiar to our regular readers:

Step #1: Discovery

The first step is to decide who you will target, define ROI goals, decide on the tech stack (with a qualified development team), and create a list of features.

Step #2: Prototyping

Then we visualize all options by creating an interactive prototype and sharing it with customers. Based on their feedback, we’ll perfect the UI/UX design without writing a single line of code, which means we keep our development-allocated budget safe.

Step #3: Development

Developers write code, QA engineers run tests, and DevOps engineers ensure coders and testers have a well-oiled infrastructure.

online mobile pharmacy app abstraction

This process repeats in small increments, gradually making the apps a reality. Please note that we’ll be working on a web portal for pharmacists/admins and mobile apps at once.

Step #4: Release

Once we have a decent MVP, we can launch the app to a specified market to test how it goes. And then gradually roll out to the rest of the customers.

Step #5: Maintenance

Maintenance is the last step, but it loops right back to prototyping and development. Part of this phase is tracking the app’s performance for bugs and improvements, besides adding new functionality. To fix the former and implement the latter, we need to return to (sometimes) prototyping and (always) development iterations.

How Much Does It Cost to Create a Pharmacy App

An MVP version would start at $120,000 and go as high as $210,000, depending on how much functionality we want to include in the shopping app and web portal.

Please schedule a call with our experts if you have an idea for a mobile pharmacy application and would like our advice on how to approach this initiative.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I test my product with more users without adding it to the App Store?

 Both Apple and Google provide options for beta testing. For example, you can use TestFlight to invite select customers into the app and collect their feedback before going public.

What tech stack should I use to build a scalable pharmacy app?

This will depend on your existing software setup. You may need to integrate with a present e-commerce solution, CRM, or other systems. Frankly, there are too many tech stacks to concentrate on a single one. Let a healthcare app development company make this choice. There’s hardly a variant that won’t work.

How can I make my customized pharma app stand out from the competition?

Think through the nuances of each use case. Here’s an example. What happens if the customer turns off notifications? Your mobile marketing channel becomes weaker, right? Does your code verify if notifications are turned off and provide some incentives for customers to turn them back on? Can customers independently manage notifications for pill reminders and promos?

How can I speed up the development of my pharma app?

There are several ways. One approach is to use a cross-platform tool, e.g., React Native or Flutter, to build iOS and pharmacy Android apps at once. After the release, you’ll be able to update both versions concurrently, spending fewer resources on maintenance.

How long does it take to develop a pahrmacy app?

Around 4-5 months for the first proof of concept.

Konstantin Kalinin

Head of Content
Konstantin has worked with mobile apps since 2005 (pre-iPhone era). Helping startups and Fortune 100 companies deliver innovative apps while wearing multiple hats (consultant, delivery director, mobile agency owner, and app analyst), Konstantin has developed a deep appreciation of mobile and web technologies. He’s happy to share his knowledge with Topflight partners.

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