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Pharmacy app development: detailed guide

The pandemic made the whole world take an unexpected turn to digital — more and more people now buy online, with medicine high on the list of online purchases.

But the growing online pharmacy and healthcare market is not limited to physical drug stores — now you will find apps for storing information about medical checkups and even managing entire pharmacy chains. Read this article if you want to learn how to join the promising market: where to start the online pharmacy app development, what “must have” features to consider, and how much it will cost.

Reading time: 13 minutes

Table of contents

Key takeaways

    • The main types of pharmacy apps are online stores, aggregator apps, pharmacy management apps, and handbooks.
    • The process of online pharmacy app development requires focusing on must-have features, such as advanced filters, payment settings, and smart notifications.
    • Embed the app functions into existing pharmacy processes. To make the integration  process as seamless as possible, cooperate with pharmacists, medical advisors, storekeepers, and logistic employees.

Online pharmacy market overview

Pharmacy app development is not as popular as messenger apps or games. The reason lies in the fact that the ePharmacy segment is a new player in the global mobile app market, unlike eCommerce or other leaders. In addition, the pharmaceutical industry is demanding in terms of regulations and restrictions. It’s not as simple as just adding a list of the existing medications to your app; some are only available by prescription, while others must be stored in special conditions. 

However, in the coming years, the online pharmacy market is set to gradually grow. By 2026 the global ePharmacy area will exceed $177 billion, according to the Fortune Business and Mordor Intelligence reports.

Global ePharmacy Market Size, 2015-2026

Today, the fastest-growing pharmacy and healthcare market segment is the Asian region. This market is perfectly situated to catch up to and eventually overtake the largest online pharmacy market, North America.

New participants are always joining the ePharmacy market. Initially, this industry was mainly made up of medicine stores, both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. But now there are cosmetics, vitamins, as well as services — audio and video consultations with doctors and chats with bots.

As the ePharmacy niche is still poorly represented on the market, there is an opportunity for growth. Therefore, you have a chance to create a product, which has no analogues on the market yet.

Business benefits of custom pharmacy apps

Let’s talk about the features of the ePharmacy market that make it different from other mobile apps and how the market benefits can be utilized by startups. A pharmacy app allows you to:

Emphasize social value

Unlike entertainment apps, a pharmacy service has undeniable value — it brings benefits because people really need it. Using medicine delivery apps, people can get help ordering medicines, consult with a doctor, and keep a treatment history. 

Highlight this benefit in the vision and mission of your product: pharmacy apps save people in difficult situations when they are sick and most in need of support. In return, you get a loyal audience that understands the app’s benefits and will continue to use it. It means that you will receive a stable income by maintaining the product functions at the proper level.

Broaden your audience

If you already have a pharmacy chain, the app will help you get more customers.

    • It is more convenient to buy medicines through a smartphone than in an offline pharmacy. 
    • The pharmacy app can become an additional point of online sales.

You can expand your target audience by creating an app not only for customers, but also for pharmacists and healthcare professionals. Implement features that will be convenient for different categories of potential users of your app.

Take advantage of modern technologies

You can implement analytical tools to attract new customers. Your customers buy medication using a pharmacy app and they want to compare prices for similar drugs. Add a comparison tool to meet its needs. Another useful feature is the analysis of purchase history. For example, the app can store user purchase history and facilitate order management with frequent reminders.

Pharmacists often have to spend a lot of time sorting medication records, updating inventory management lists, and analyzing sales statistics. Consider built-in sales analytics and tracking systems, such as medicine code scanning, to reduce workloads for pharmacies and warehouses.

Types of pharmacy apps

Before you start an online pharmacy app development, study the types of pharmacy applications on the market. This analysis will help you choose the direction to build your own product and highlight important points in healthcare application development.

Types of pharmacy apps

Apps for marketplaces

This is a pharmacy marketplace: you collect goods from several suppliers in one place, and the buyers select and order the right drugs. The main advantage of the aggregator app is that you are not limited to the list of pharmacies and medicines. You can work with any pharmacy chain. However, in this case, you will have to build all processes for logistics, data aggregation, and collecting medication information from scratch.

Apps for online store

Unlike an aggregator app, a store app is associated with a specific pharmacy store or chain. The online pharma store is more limited compared to the aggregator app. In return, you get streamlined processes that have already proven themselves in the pharmacy chain. The advantages of this type of pharmacy apps are well-established supply chains, accumulated medicine data, and contacts with pharmacy consultants.

Apps for store chains

This is an app for managing processes in a pharmaceutical company or pharmacy. The app can include such useful features as smart digital catalog integration, logistics attributes, and analytic settings.

Apps for handbooks

You can develop a help app for pharmacists, patients, doctors, or pharmaceutical company employees who want to have all drug information in one place. For example, it may include an up-to-date list of all medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Another useful feature of a handbook app is an immunization calendar that notifies users — medical professionals or patients — of the vaccination schedule. 

The app should be a convenient tool for working with regularly updated databases. It is important to include clear navigation and an advanced search system.

Pharmacy app interface

Pocket Pharmacist app boasts easy access to full FDA prescribing information, fast drug searches, interaction checker, and even quizzes to keep you sharp

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Top-3 pharmaceutical mobile apps

Let’s compare existing online pharmacy apps that will be useful for both customers and pharmacy staff. We selected 3 examples based on downloads, global presence, and must have features. You can borrow from our tips for your own product.

Walgreens

App for customers who want to buy drugs online. Walgreens is an online pharmacy store of the second largest pharmacy chain in the United States.

Walgreen app interface

Walgreen helps you buy medicines, manage your prescriptions, and communicate with doctors

Key functions: 

    • allows to buy medicines;
    • helps to find prescriptions and search for medicines by scanning a barcode;
    • reminds users to take medicines;
    • connects with pharmacy and healthcare providers for consultations.

Rite Aid Pharmacy

One of the pioneer products that appeared on the mobile app market in 2012.

Rite Aid app interface

Rite Aid helps you to manage your prescriptions, shop for your whole health needs, and receive notifications when your prescription is ready for pickup

Key functions: 

    • catalog of medicines: buy medicines using your smartphone;
    • family accounts: create a common medical list with prescriptions for all family members;
    • navigation: find the nearest pharmacy with available medicines;
    • bonus system: earn Rite Aid Rewards points and convert them to BonusCash for more savings.

Epocrates

App for employees of pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies. Just enter a pill’s characteristics, such as color and shape, to get its complete profile.

Epocrates app menu

Epocrates app includes a set of useful features for pharmacists

Key functions: 

    • analyzes how different drugs are combined and interact with each other; 
    • contains the full medication data, from prescription drugs, storage conditions, and safety information to updates on pharmacopeia changes;
    • checks health insurance formulas for medication coverage.

Must have features of an online pharma app

The pharmacy app must include the necessary features to meet the needs of the business and user expectations. Consider the most important and common functions.

Login & registration

Any new user must be authorized, especially if they want to buy a prescription medicine. Online pharmacy apps typically ask for age, gender, and questions about health. This information is crucial if you are going to sell medicines with age or health restrictions. For example, there are special drugs that are prohibited from sale to patients under 18 years old or may not be advisable for patients with certain medical conditions. 

At the same time, it is important to keep in mind the balance between the full data collection and user privacy. Your app should be compliant with privacy standards such as HIPAA.

READ MORE  How to develop a HIPAA-compliant mobile application: Step-by-Step Guide

Search and filtering

An important issue for customers is to find the right medicine or its equivalent. First of all, implement advanced search filters and make the search as user-friendly as possible: for example, add an option to return similar drug names in the list of results, even if the user has mistyped the name of the drug.

Cart and payment

This is a standard feature for any e-commerce app. Provide your users with several payment options — different types of cards (VISA, Mastercard), payments by transfer through an online wallet, and mobile payments. Enable the option to securely store the card details to save users’ time and simplify the purchase process.

CVS Health app

CVS Health launched its own mobile payments solution in 2016. It allows customers to pay for products, pick up prescriptions, and earn loyalty rewards — just by scanning the barcode in the CVS mobile app. This solution helps to reduce the number of steps it takes today to complete a checkout

Notifications system

Users need to keep track of their orders. Here are some examples of push notifications:

  • order management and status changes;
  • reminder for a user to take medications;
  • discounts and special offers.

Keep flexible settings in mind, for example, add a function to turn off all notifications or customize them.

Phlo Digital Pharmacy app notifications

The Phlo Digital Pharmacy app notifies and saves updates on important events relating to user orders

Contacts or chat-bot

Provide your users with a tool to contact the pharmacy and courier to ask questions about medicines or verify order information. The specific type of communication channel and its implementation depends on your resources and the goals of your pharmacy app. At a minimum, add a simple chatbot to communicate with the administrator.

Communication with a pharmacist in the Capsule pharmacy app

The Capsule app allows you to text, call, email or chat with a pharmacist anytime

An extended version of the communication function is telemedicine. In general, telemedicine works like a chatbot or a call to a medical consultant or pharmacist. If you want to create a useful pharmacy app, ask medical experts to test interface scenarios.

Nice-to-have features of an online pharmacy app

Some of the features could turn it from a standard drug aggregator to an indispensable app for regular use.

Information about drugs and their comparison

Let your users find out all the necessary information about drugs: the manufacturer, or drug composition, for example. In addition, you can also include a function to check the drug compatibility: some medicines must or must not be taken together.

Barcode scanning

Add a barcode scanning feature to the pharmacy app to get info about drugs, order a refill, or make a payment at a store. Scanning simplifies the UX because all data is in one place.

Scandit app usage

Scandit app enables users to see medication information like expiration dates, correct dosage, and allergy information

Order history

This feature allows users to see which drugs they have purchased in the past and helps to track the entire treatment history based on previous prescriptions. Order history can simplify record-keeping for patients and healthcare professionals.

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Pharmacy app tech stack

If you create a pharmacy app from scratch, we recommend choosing a JavaScript-based tech stack. With the JavaScript stack, your app will work on any device.

Choose React.js and Node.js for a web-based app. React.js is used for the frontend part of the app — the interface with which the user interacts. Node.js — for the backend, or the “server” side. The frameworks complement each other and ensure the best performance for your app.

Opt for Electron.js for a desktop app. This will allow you to build a cross-platform product compatible with MacOS and Windows with one development team.

READ MORE  How to nail the software development team structure? Purrweb’s Guide

Consider React Native — it’s the best bet for a mobile app. One team of developers will make a product compatible with iOS and Android at the same time, which will save you money and man hours.

Compliance requirements for an e-pharmacy app 

The niche of medicine delivery app development is heavily regulated. Regardless of where your company is based, there will be plenty of standards that you have to comply with.

We put together a list of the 8 most popular regulations for a medicine delivery app in the EU, the UK, the U.S., and Canada.

HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA compliance is the core of any pharmacy delivery app. This law protects patient’s sensitive information such as names, diagnoses, prescribed medicine, credit card number, and other details. All online pharmacies are subjected to HIPAA rules if they operate in the U.S. market.

Other local laws: GDPR, CCPA, PIPEDA

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Any medicine delivery app that collects data from European users must strictly adhere to GDPR. This law offers strict guidelines for the handling of personal data and emphasizes user consent, rights, and information encryption.

CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act). Relevant to pharmacy stores that cater to California residents, CCPA protects consumer info and legally requires transparency in data collection. It also gives users control over their personal information and the right to take legal action against your own pharmacy app if a data breach happens.

PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act). This Canadian law governs the collection and use of personal information. To comply, pharmacy app developers should consider consent tools, limited data collection, and safeguards to transfer and store user data.

HITECH

Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act specifically affects the healthcare sector in the United States. HITECH focuses on the security and privacy of electronic health information. A medicine delivery app needs to implement stringent security measures in order to comply.

NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology provides a framework for the cybersecurity of pharmacy delivery apps and outlines the best practices and security standards. Compliance with NIST guidelines ensures robust security measures to protect sensitive data.

DSCSA

For pharmacy apps dealing with prescription drugs and online medicine ordering, compliance with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act, or DSCSA is essential. It aims to enhance drug traceability, ensure secure distribution, track inventory management, and authenticate the pharmaceutical supply chain.

CSA

Cloud Security Alliance publishes regular guidelines for a pharmacy app development company, with a focus on cloud-based services and the secure management of data stored in the cloud.

7 steps to make a pharmacy app

If you are ready to start your medicine delivery development, consider the steps highlighted below. The approach is based on our 8-year experience in app development and over 300 completed projects.

#1. Analyze the market and research competitors

The first step on the path to pharma app development is to decide which of the popular apps will be your points of reference. Feel free to use the experience of similar products: find tips, and notice UX hacks and features from other online pharma apps. Try to define your product goals and focus on the needs of your target audience.

#2. Define the app features 

We recommend starting your healthcare app development with an MVP, a minimum viable product. This is a basic version of your pharmacy app that will help to quickly test your idea on the market at minimum expense. Make a list of key features from your previous market analysis to create a vision for your product. You can also use the must-have features that we mentioned earlier in the article.

READ MORE  MVP Development Process for Healthcare Products

#3. Find developers

There are 3 ways of an app development company: outsourcing, freelancing, and in-house. We recommend outsourcing as it will save you time and money.

Choose a provider with relevant experience. It is better to choose an agency that has already implemented similar projects and knows the features and limitations of the healthcare application development process. 

Read more about how we created a drug delivery app that helps to find medicine available in pharmacies nearby, pay for them right from the app, and get them delivered.

#4. UI/UX design and wireframing

At Purrweb, we start working on the design with mindmap, a sort of non-linear diagram to visualize and present your concept. Then, we create wireframes — a rough sketch of an app with a layout of key elements on the page.

The app interface should be simple so that the user can immediately understand how to order medicines and get help. 

Next, we usually come up with a design concept and put together a UI kit with all the main design elements, fonts, icons, and buttons. In between these stages, we’re asking for the client’s feedback.

Healthcare app design requires a lot of expertise and knowledge of user behaviors. To get a better understanding of industry trends and best practices, check out the case studies.

READ MORE  Looking good… and making sense: what’s an interface and how does UI development work

#5. Prototyping 

In the early stages of any medicine delivery app, the prototyping phase acts as a basic outline of a product that showcases how users can navigate it. However, these interactive flows are a step up from just visualizing the idea.

“Prototyping is a quick way to go from sketches or wireframes to a simulation where you can get user feedback,” said Tom Lowry, one of Figma’s directors.

Developers use Figma to outline the product with basic functionality, and collect feedback from users, plan the user journey, and make necessary adjustments. The end goal of this process is to ensure a smooth and user-friendly experience for customers who use the online pharmacy.

#6. Coding

In the case of an online pharma app development, we recommend starting from the mobile version. Most likely, the mobile version will be more popular for ordering medicines than the browser version, because the smartphone is always at hand. 

To reach a wider audience, it makes sense to develop the app both for Android and iOS. That’s why you may want to choose React Native as a tech stack for your project. This framework allows you to develop a mobile app with one codebase for both Android and iOS — cheaper compared to native apps but just as reliable.

#7. Release and maintenance

After your app goes to market, it’s important to analyze user feedback and improve the app in the next releases. In the case of a pharmacy app development, proper maintenance is particularly important. Take care of the most important pharmacy app properties: monitor its updates and protect user data.

How much it costs to create a pharmacy app

Here are the factors that will influence the final cost of the pharma app development:

  • the complexity and the number of app features;
  • the hiring type, the time frame, and the developer’s hourly rate;
  • the number of platforms for the app.

Below you can see our approximate cost estimate for medicine delivery app development. If you would like an accurate estimate, please contact us.

Time Cost
Project estimation & analysis 8 hours $0
UI/UX design 110 hours $6 100
Coding 1300 hours $75 150
Testing 680 hours $13 600
Project management during the whole project  $17 700

An online pharmacy app development will take about 7 months and cost approximately $112,550.

If you have an app idea and are looking for a development partner, feel free to get in touch with us using the form below. Purrweb has 8+ years of experience in MVP development and your app has every chance to become the next successful project.

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