Online prescription services, also known as electronic prescribing, have a fairly long history in pharmacy and, as such, aren’t necessarily new. With the advancements in technology and healthcare growth, its rapid evolution also doesn’t come as a surprise.
In 2003, the passage of the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) brought e-prescribing into the spotlight. While the act didn’t require pharmacies and other healthcare providers to implement online prescription methods, it offered two things: first, a formal definition of electronic prescribing; and second, a set of uniform standards that should be adopted for proper adoption and use of online prescribing.
In 2007, e-prescribing became lawfully recognized. It was then followed by the passage of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) by the next year. In 2009, Medicare provided incentives for healthcare providers who successfully use e-prescribing programs. The Drug Enforcement Administration approved e-prescribing for controlled substances in 2010.
Indeed, online prescription services have undergone a gradual yet steady growth toward their current status. Most providers and pharmacies in the United States have already adopted e-prescribing programs. A quick Internet search also reveals numerous online prescription services that offer telemedicine and door-to-door medication delivery to patients or pharmacy tie-ups.
What exactly is e-prescribing, and how is it different from traditional prescribing methods? E-prescribing is the contemporary computerized method of traditional paper prescriptions (i.e., paperless). While the actual procedures vary between online prescription services, the typical steps are:
- You, the patient or caregiver of the patient, make an online appointment with the online prescription service website. Provide personal information, including your name, age, and gender, as well as medical information and history. You may also be asked about your health aspirations.
- You will engage in a telemedicine session with a licensed physician, usually after undergoing an initial evaluation by a registered nurse or an advanced nursing practitioner. (In some cases, such as with Amazon Pharmacy, your doctor will send your prescriptions to the website to fill them. There’s no telemedicine involved, but e-prescribing is used.)
- You will be prescribed the appropriate medication and recommended treatment measures, pay for the cost of consultation and medication, and finish the telemedicine session. You may be asked to either pick up your medicines from a brick-and-mortar pharmacy or delivered them to your home.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, e-prescribing has made positive healthcare experience changes for both provider and patient. The coronavirus pandemic highlighted its benefits, particularly in light of shelter-at-home orders and the extreme stress on the healthcare system, but e-prescribing has been and will continue to be a crucial component of healthcare services in the years to come.
The benefits of e-prescribing for providers and patients include:
- Improved patient safety and outcome.
Many adverse drug events (ADEs) occur because of avoidable errors from indecipherable or unvalidated written prescriptions, such as choosing the incorrect drug, misinterpreting an order due to illegible handwriting, and duplicating medications. Even when errors are identified before the pharmacist has filled the physician’s order, the additional communication required between the providers can result in the delay of patient care. More disturbingly, mistakes that haven’t been identified and rectified can result in potential harm, even death, to patients!
Fortunately, most e-prescribing software has safety measures in place that reduce the risk of ADEs from written prescriptions. For example, the physician can be notified of potential prescription errors before the prescriptions have been transmitted to the pharmacy. Known as point-of-care decision support, its other features include prompting the provider to confirm dosage accuracy, verify possible patient allergies, and identify potential drug interactions.
The bottom line: It is highly likely for patients to get medications and their dosage to support their treatment, recovery, and rehabilitation.
- Decreased cost of healthcare services
Patients enjoy more savings from patronizing online prescription services, too, for many reasons. First, many e-prescribing software provide alerts that inform physicians about more affordable yet effective therapies, even make suggestions about discontinuing unnecessary expensive medications and looking into ways of maximizing current drug therapies. Patients can then access cost-effective therapies that they wouldn’t have been able to with traditional prescribing.
Second, patients can save on money that would otherwise have been used on gas, food and water, and other incidental expenses associated with traveling to and from the doctor’s office. While some of the online prescription services don’t accept medical insurance, the costs of consultation and medications are affordable enough to forego insurance, too. Many websites even make it possible for patients to compare their medications’ prices and, thus, make a choice based on their financial capacity.
- Better access to prescription records
The electronic storage of prescription records – and in many cases, cloud storage, too – has proven valuable in cases when patient safety is at stake, particularly during drug recalls natural disasters and loss of records. Providers and pharmacies continue to benefit from electronic storage, such as streamlining the prescription process, resulting in decreased wait times for patients.
These benefits can be enjoyed if the patient patronizes the services of a legitimate online prescription site. Here are what you must look for to determine a website’s legitimacy and, thus, safety.
- Look for a license issued by the state board of pharmacy and other state agencies, as well as pharmacy industry recognition
- Ask about the license of the physicians and other healthcare providers on the team, and check these credentials with the appropriate government agency
- Check the location in the United States – the more complete the address provided, the better.
We make the search for legitimate online prescription sites easier by presenting these top 10 websites. We looked into all the abovementioned aspects and determined actual patient experiences to ensure that these are legitimate.
Explore the 10 Best Online Prescription Services with ease using these quick links:
- Blink Health
- Hims and Hers
- Anytime Pediatrics
- Amazon Pharmacy
- Teladoc Health Inc.
Lemonaid is widely considered the best online prescription service for common illnesses. The conditions covered include sinus infections, acne, dark spots, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, birth control, high cholesterol, flu, depression and anxiety, cold sores, migraines, and smoking cessation. There are also in-lab and at-home COVID-19 antibody tests, STD testing, A1C blood sugar test, and blood type testing.
The consultation process varies depending on your state, but the typical consultation involves either a phone or video visit with a licensed doctor. Like with traditional doctor visits, a nurse practitioner will ask questions regarding your personal and medical information to determine telemedicine’s safety and suitability in your case. The initial evaluation is also necessary for diagnosis and prescription purposes, such as when blood pressure readings or blood tests are required.
Lemonaid staff will provide a referral note to Quest Diagnostics, one of its partners, for any necessary blood tests. You can take your blood pressure at home or avail of free blood pressure service at a pharmacy. Nonetheless, online consultations are faster and easier than face-to-face visits, thanks to the reduced wait times and improved convenience.
As for the medications, patients can choose between two delivery options. First, you can have your prescription sent to Lemonaid’s mail-order pharmacy, have it filled, and then delivered to your home. Second, you can have the online prescription sent to your preferred pharmacy, where you can pick up the medicines at an agreed time.
As with brick-and-mortar pharmacies, the prices of prescriptions at Lemonaid vary depending on your medication. But Lemonaid physicians prescribe affordable generic drugs whenever appropriate or upon request.
The typical $25 consultation fee covers the physician evaluation and prescription but excludes the cost of medicines. For certain services, particularly depression and anxiety treatment, Lemonaid charges a flat monthly fee for consultations and medicines prescribed and shipped to the patient’s home.
Lemonaid telemedicine services aren’t covered by insurance at this time; the non-coverage applies both to the cost of consultation and the cost of medicines. You may, nonetheless, ask your insurance provider if coverage for your prescription medicines is available. Otherwise, you can ask Lemonaid to send your prescriptions to a local pharmacy and check if these are covered by insurance.
Note: Lemonaid virtual visits may be cheaper than traditional visits with an in-network co-pay, while its medicines may also be more affordable at its online pharmacy. Be sure to make price comparisons before deciding either way.
Blink Health, an online prescription service based in New York, offers a monthly subscription plan for its customers. Most customers can afford the $o5 monthly subscription for the first month, and it can also be said for the subscription to virtual doctor consultations on subsequent months – as low as $9.95 per month.
But the cost of medications is charged separately and will vary depending on the doctor’s prescribed dosage and quantity. If your doctor prescribes ten tablets of 20 mg sildenafil priced at $9 total, your monthly cost will be $18.95 ($9.95 monthly subscription on the second month plus $8.95).
The conditions treated at Blink Health include erectile dysfunction, acid reflux, birth control, hair loss, high cholesterol, and cold sores, among others. The common drugs prescribed are atorvastatin, buprenorphine, duloxetine, finasteride, montelukast, sildenafil, tadalafil valacyclovir, to name a few.
The website offers discounted prices on more than 15,000 prescription medications. You can pay online, choose from among Blink Health’s over 35,000 participating pharmacies nationwide, and pick up your medications from your preferred pharmacy. You may also choose door-to-door delivery of your prescribed medications.
The participating pharmacies include familiar names like Albertsons, Costco, Kroger, Publix, Safeway, Walmart, and Ralphs. Check partner pharmacies on the official website or the mobile app. Patients can save as much as 80% off the retail price, too, thanks to the prescription drug discount program.
The virtual doctor consultation starts with a series of questions regarding your personal information and medical history. You may be required to provide laboratory work and upload photos of affected areas of your body, depending on your condition. A Blink Health licensed physician will review your answers, laboratory work, and photos before getting back to you, usually within 24 hours.
Blink Health has a digital pharmacy that finds the lowest possible price on your prescription medicines, usually after analyzing your insurance terms, including co-pays and deductibles. Pharmacists are also available for consultations during business hours.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy recognizes the legitimacy of Blink Health. The website is also a participant of the Pharmacy Verified Websites Program.
Note: Payment for medications bought via Blink Health sans insurance may not be counted in your prescription drug coverage – ask your insurance provider about it first. For federal healthcare beneficiaries, including Medicare Part D participants, out-of-pocket payments for medicines may not be eligible for reimbursement.
Keep in mind that Cerebral strictly complies with the law that states the healthcare provider must have obtained a license in the state where the patient is located. As a result, not all states are covered by its services, although its management says it’s working on expanding its coverage. Furthermore, Cerebral offers Therapy and Medication + Therapy plans in Ohio, Washington, and North Carolina, among other states, where it has licensed therapists.
Also, Cerebral specializes in the long-term treatment of mental health illnesses, particularly depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Suitable patients include adults 18 years old and above who must be residents of the states where Cerebral has valid licenses and believes that they will benefit from treatment.
Cerebral reserves the right to refuse treatment for individuals with certain circumstances and conditions, including substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia. Pregnant and nursing women are also well-advised to seek medical care from other providers.
The consultation process is simple and straightforward, too, an attraction for patients and their caregivers. You need to fill out a brief online questionnaire designed to help healthcare providers understand your medical history, symptoms, and other relevant information.
You will then engage in a phone or video consultation with your doctor, who will find out the best possible treatment plan for your unique case. You can then meet your care counselor or therapist through a phone or video call, discuss your concerns, and set subsequent care sessions.
Every month, you will receive your prescribed medications, if any, as well as meet with your care counselor to learn new skills, discuss your progress, and make necessary changes to your treatment program. You may also be required to check in with your doctor for progress evaluations.
As a provider of online long-term mental health care, Cerebral offers three subscription plans. Remember: not all these plans are available in all covered states, so ask the Cerebral staff first before making your choice. These plans are the “Medication + Basic Care” plan, the “Medication + Therapy” plan, and the “Therapy” plan.
Cerebral services are neither covered by insurance plans nor listed as an in-network provider by any insurance companies. But it’s FSA/HAS eligible, and the staff assists patients in getting reimbursements for Cerebral services. For HSA/FSA participants, your subscription fees may be covered, resulting in about 30% savings; the HAS/FSA funds are considered pre-tax dollars, thus, the savings.
Hims and Hers are sibling brands offering online prescription services, albeit with different target markets – Hims is obviously for men while Hers is for women. But both websites offer many same medications for conditions that affect both males and females, such as Valtrex for genital herpes and Tretinoin for acne.
Both also provide primary care for a wide range of common conditions, including colds and flu, allergies, infections (UTI, pink eye and sinusitis), skin and hair conditions, medication refills, and nutritional supplements. Both also have COVID-19 services, particularly a home saliva test, a self-assessment tool, and mental health services.
Each website provides healthcare services for sex-specific medical conditions. The Hims site covers erectile dysfunction, herpes, and premature ejaculation. The Hers site covers yeast infection, birth control, urinary tract health, and herpes-related services. The distinction makes it easier for male and female patients to seek the appropriate medical treatments for their sex-specific issues.
The Hims and Hers websites have similar consultation processes for their services, too. The patient has to set up an account on the appropriate website and click on the type of consultation suitable for your current symptoms. You must answer a brief online questionnaire that a licensed doctor will use as a comprehensive patient assessment tool.
Choose whether to have your prescription medication, if any, filled via the Hims/Hers platform or through a third-party pharmacy of your choice. You must pay for your medications before checking out of your account; again, the drugs’ cost already includes the consultation fee.
Note that the medications’ costs are paid to the pharmacies while the physician consultation fees are paid to the medical groups that contract the physicians. The medications are delivered to the patient’s preferred address free of charge.
The sibling sites neither accept insurance nor are covered by insurance. Check with your local pharmacy if your insurance plan covers your specific medication. You may avail of free birth control pills, for example, under your insurance, which would otherwise be worth $30 when purchased from the Hers website.
PillPack, which has recently been acquired by Amazon Pharmacy, has its headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire, but it has a nationwide presence. While all medications are dispensed from its online pharmacy and shipped to patients on a door-to-door basis, it doesn’t have delivery services in Hawaii yet.
Clients pay out-of-pocket costs and co-pays. PillPack is in-network with many major Medicare Part D plans as well as with Express Scripts, CVS Caremark, and OptumRx, among other major pharmacy benefit managers. This means that you’re likely to pay the same prices in other pharmacies when your insurance or Medicare/Medicaid plan is accepted.
On the bright side, the medications’ shipping fees are always free, and the medications are reasonably priced. You may also purchase a reusable dispenser for $15 or opt for a free, recyclable paper box dispenser. You can receive prescription medications and over-the-counter pills, nutritional supplements, and non-pill medications through the service. These are packed in packets with prominent notes about the date and time you’re supposed to take these medicines.
PillPack is well-loved by clients for its exceptional customer service, quality control, and online usability, too. Signing up is easy, although you will be required to provide a few things, including your doctor’s information, your list of medications, your insurance information, and the preferred payment method.
The PillPack service doesn’t include virtual doctor visits for now, but its staff coordinates with your healthcare and insurance providers to gather and validate your prescriptions and their coverage. The staff also schedules the first and subsequent shipments, orders your refills and ensures your medication’s on-time delivery.
PillPack pharmacists are available 24/7 for questions and concerns from patients. It’s also recognized by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and is an active participant in the Pharmacy Verified Websites Program.
Anytime Pediatrics, founded by Dr. Mick Connors, is a virtual care partner that offers pediatric-specific telemedicine services for a wide range of conditions. The services include virtual consultations, routine follow-ups, and on-demand sick visits in a manner similar to traditional consultations except with the use of digital technology, such as video calls and online prescriptions.
The app and its mobile app connect physicians, particularly primary pediatricians, with their patients. The Anytime Pediatrics’ physicians can diagnose, treat, and manage a broad range of non-emergency cases in babies, children, and adolescents, even young adults. The medical conditions covered include rashes, allergies, minor abrasions, respiratory illnesses, and behavioral and mental health issues, among others.
The consultation process follows the model adopted by many other online prescription services. First, you have to create a free account or login using your existing account details. You will then be asked for relevant information, including your full name and contact information, your insurance provider, and your pediatrician’s name and contact information. The last requirement is vital for Anytime Pediatrics to share notes with your pediatrician and, thus, facilitate the best possible healthcare service.
Second, you must set up your child’s profile by providing pertinent information, including name, birthdate, height and weight, and gender. You must also provide basic medical information like current medical conditions and medications, even known allergies. You may also be asked for reasons for seeking medical care, possibly upload laboratory test results and photos.
Third, you and your child will be asked to participate in a virtual consultation with your pediatrician if they are part of the network or with an on-call physician. Anytime Pediatrics only establishes partnerships with Board-certified and licensed physicians.
In case of prescription medications, physicians can call in these prescriptions to the patient’s preferred local pharmacy and have them filled. Physicians may also provide notes for excused absences from school, a service not typical in many online prescription services.
Pediatricians on the Anytime Pediatrics platforms accept major health insurance plans, but we suggest asking your insurance provider for more details. Some physicians may also offer a flat consultation fee or a cash payment option for patients without health insurance. Anytime Pediatrics assures its clients that it won’t make charges on debit and credit cards until the patient-initiated consultation has been completed (i.e., no dropped calls).
The online retail giant has entered the online pharmacy industry via its simply named Amazon Pharmacy. Like its retail e-commerce sibling, it’s just as user-friendly, although a quick sign-up is a must before first-time purchase.
You must first set up your profile and provide information for the prescription medications you want to be filled. Your next step is to request your doctor to send your medications to Amazon pharmacy; the online pharmacy won’t fill prescription medications without a valid doctor’s prescription.
You can compare the cost of the medications with and without insurance during checkout. You will be required to provide payment and delivery details. Your medications are delivered in discreet packaging, a must for patient confidentiality. You may also browse the available medications using the product search bar before creating or logging in to your account.
Amazon Pharmacy sells and delivers medications, including pills, tablets, capsules, creams, and ointments. Take note, however, that it doesn’t ship medications with a high risk for misuse and abuse, such as some opioids, even with doctors’ prescriptions. But it ensures that medications are delivered on time and in the proper form, such as medications requiring cold temperatures during transport.
Amazon Pharmacy doesn’t offer online doctor consultations, but it offers self-service tools that customers can use to make an initial assessment of their conditions. Pharmacists are also available on a 24/7 basis to address concerns and answer questions about the drugs and other pharmaceutical products.
Amazon Pharmacy differentiates itself from the competition by accepting most major insurance plans and making it easy for customers to avail of insurance benefits and make cost comparisons. You have to option of entering your insurance information or allowing the online pharmacy to look it up. You also have the benefit of the online pharmacy checking if your insurance plan provides coverage for its service and products.
You may also use the service without insurance and view the lowest price without insurance and the co-pay with insurance during checkout. You may even be able to enjoy discounts at Amazon Pharmacy’s brick-and-mortar partner pharmacies nationwide; there are 50,000 partners, including CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, and Costco.
PlushCare, a well-known telemedicine platform, allows individuals with or without an insurance plan to access state-licensed doctors’ medical services on their desktops, laptops, and smartphones. Even first-time telemedicine clients find its platform fairly simple and easy to use.
You start by downloading their mobile app to your Android or iOS smartphone, create your account and start using its features. You can set appointments with your preferred physician, engage in virtual consultations, and get a diagnosis, treatment plan, and prescription for medications. You may also request laboratory tests and same-day appointments through the mobile app.
PlushCare’s platform is also fully integrated with many insurers, laboratory facilities, and pharmacies. Such full integration means streamlined medical services can be delivered to the patients, from the initial consultation and follow-up checkups to the delivery of medications. Appointments aren’t hurried affairs, too, as physicians strive to make the right diagnosis and treatment, although the average appointment lasts for only 15 minutes or less.
The official website lists numerous medical conditions covered by the physicians. These include routine primary conditions like pink eye, sore throat, sinus infections, chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and prescription refills. The physicians can also write doctors’ notes for up to three days for school and work purposes.
The customer support services aren’t fancy, but these are sufficient. These include a toll-free number and an email address; there are no chat options, and PlushCare recommends – and rightly so – that clients proceed directly to the emergency room or call 911 in case of emergencies.
PlushCare accepts most major insurance providers, such as Anthem Blue Cross, United Healthcare Aetna, and Cigna. You may then only pay the co-pay for the online doctor’s visit.
Wisp, a relative newcomer to the industry (2018), offers online consultation and prescription services focused on reproductive and sexual health issues. Many adults are hesitant about discussing these issues, which can be embarrassing, with their doctors during face-to-face consultations, but telemedicine’s physical distance seems to encourage them to open up. The conditions covered on Wisp include bacterial vaginosis, cold sores, genital herpes, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, urinary tract infections, and yeast infections.
Wisp uses an online questionnaire that must be filled out before the online doctor consultation can begin. However, take note that an online physician consultation may or may not be necessary, depending on your condition and your state of residence. As a patient, you can discuss your preferences for medications, including their dosage and duration.
Within 24 hours, a Wisp online doctor will review the information provided in your case, including your medical history and symptoms. If the said doctor doesn’t need more information, he/she will then prescribe the appropriate medication that will be mailed to your address; the typical delivery time is between three and five days. But if the doctor requires more information, you will be contacted for a telemedicine session.
Choose to pick up your medications from a local pharmacy, usually within the same day or the day after the prescription was issued. You can choose to wait for the rest of the medication, too. While the in-house pharmacy delivery service fee is already included in the total bill, the pick-up option may be slightly more expensive but worth it.
Wisp also sells a wide range of medications unrelated to reproductive and sexual health, including nutritional supplements. Examples include probiotics and all-natural herbal supplements; these have separate prices, including one-time fees, monthly subscription fees, or consultation fees.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisp also has a partnership with Quest and LabCorp for antibody testing. You must first pay the $49 testing fee at Wisp, go to the nearest clinic for the test, and get your results from the Wisp website.
Wisp isn’t covered by insurance, but the HSA/FSA card can be used for paying for its services. You are allowed to file a claim for reimbursement from your insurer, so you may want to ask first. You can also request your prescription to be transferred to a local pharmacy that provides coverage for the medicines.
Teladoc Health, Inc., which was launched in 2008 and a publicly-traded corporation (NYSE), is a multinational virtual healthcare company with primary services that include telemedicine. Its primary technologies are telephone and videoconferencing software and mobile apps designed to provide providers and patients with effective and efficient tools for on-demand remote medical care. As of 2019, its coverage not only includes the United States but about 130 other countries.
Patients can use the service on a 24/7 basis and be connected with Teladoc Health’s state-licensed, board-certified physicians within minutes after a request has been made. Physicians cover a wide range of non-emergency conditions, such as pink eye, flu, and sinus issues and skin, hair, and mental health issues. Both patients and physicians are prohibited from making face-to-face interactions; the latter must follow proprietary clinical guidelines for the former’s safety and protection.
Physicians can also recommend that patients must visit the emergency room or make an appointment with an urgent care center, a primary care physician, or a specialist when necessary. Nurses also conduct random reviews of the physicians’ consultation records every month.
Aside from the one-time payment, patients may also be asked to pay a consultation fee for every visit. Some companies on the Teladoc Health network subsidize or waive their employees’ consultation fees. Teladoc Health accepts major insurance plans, too.
In conclusion, the best online prescription services should serve their patients’ needs instead of the other way around! One of your primary considerations then in choosing which among these websites you will patronize is their customer care quality.
Does the website offer satisfactory customer care services through chats, emails, and toll-free numbers on a 24/7 basis? Does it have registered nurses and licensed doctors, among other healthcare professionals on board? Do its healthcare providers demonstrate compassion and care, along with competence? Do the website and its managers and healthcare professionals take the appropriate measures to respect client confidentiality and privacy?
If you find that all these questions have a “yes” for an answer on a single website, then perhaps it’s the best online prescription service for you! (By the way, all ten websites check the boxes, so to speak, and it’s a matter of personal preference whichever site you eventually choose!)