As the population of the U.S. ages, the need for online pharmacies and safer dispensing methods such as pill packing is growing each day. One in five Americans takes more than five prescription drugs each day. Many of them are seniors who must pay attention to what time of day they take their medications. The technological advancements and automation services in recent years make it unsurprising to hear how online pharmacies are changing the way prescriptions are managed. More and more, seniors are embracing this change as they are the ones who could benefit the most from these new services.

Amazon and PillPack

Even companies like Amazon are noticing and getting in on the action. Amazon bought PillPack in June 2018, an online pharmacy offering pre-packaged medications, which aims to make it easier for consumers to remember to take their medications by delivering all their daily tablets in a convenient packet. In the industry this service is referred to as multi-dose drug dispensing (MDD). In addition, these companies help automate pharmacy calls for refills and co-pay information.

Competition for PillPack

Most all CVS stores and some independent pharmacies, Walgreens and Rite Aid stores, offer the MDD service. This market is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to provide our readers with an up-to-date listing of pharmacies offering multi-dose drug dispensing. It is certain that PillPack is a first mover in this space and others will follow. PillPack CEO, TJ Parker, says of the competition, "Recent moves by these and other legacy players suggest that pharmacy is still prime for disruption. We welcome allies in the shakeup."

More than Just Medications

Businesses such as PillPack save time and energy by shipping medications directly to a person's front door. PillPack sends medication packs every two weeks meaning customers get 14 individual packets each with a daily dose of prescription medicines and any vitamins they specified in their package request. A label on the package details the time and dosage of each medication making it easier to regulate their daily health routine. Because the pharmacy is online and available around the clock means customers don't have to travel to a location and wait in line for the medications, a service that is especially convenient for those with disabilities, without transportation or are otherwise homebound.

Easier for Caregivers

Caregivers can also take advantage of these online services. Many of them are friends or family members of the elderly person and also work full-time and care for their own families. Having access to an online pharmacy with the ability to order and refill medications from a computer or smartphone can make a big difference. It eliminates long lines, multiple trips to the pharmacy for different medications, and remembering to fill days-of-the-week pill boxes.

Pricing

Pricing is relatively reasonable for this service. For example, PillPack offers subscriptions at $20 per month, in addition to co-pays the customer might have. The online pharmacy also accepts most major prescription insurance plans and types of Medicare Part D. A team of pharmaceutical professionals and customer service persons are available for questions or advice or to speak to a customer's insurance provider thus freeing customers of the middle-person role between pharmacy and insurance.

By going online, customers can see a dashboard of their current medications and doses, the arrival date of their next shipment, and the total amount of their co-pays and over-the-counter drugs they have ordered. They can also change their prescriptions or update their insurance information. The sorting, timetables, refills are in plain view and straightforward. Given today's technology , online pharmacies are giving traditional pharmacies serious competition.

Smartphone Sync

Moreover, the pill packs they provide is an easy option for obtaining daily doses of medications. Companies are perfecting packages that sync with smartphones and allow cell phone reminders to clients to take their medications. By using packaging that is temperature-sensitive, medications stay in a stable environment and don't lose maintain their potency. In addition, pre-packaged medicines help alleviate dispensing errors, which protects patients' health and takes a strain off rushed pharmacy employees.

By having a pack of daily pills, seniors are less likely to inadvertently double-up on one medication and forget another one.

More from SeniorsMatter on Medication Management: MedMinder: Keeping Medications on Track

If a patient wishes to switch to an online pharmacy, they must notify their doctor who will pass on the prescription information to the new pharmacy. These companies also offer devices such as inhalers, diabetes testing supplies, and creams.

These pharmacies show promise, including dollar savings, cutting drug waste, improving patient outcomes, and a decrease in stress and time. More of these online businesses can be expected in the future.

Sources

PillPack takes on Amazon, Walgreens and CVS--and looks to win, February 1, 2018 https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2018/02/01/pillpack-takes-on-amazon-walgreens-and-cvs-and-looks-to-win/

Tips for How Best to Organize Medications, May, 21, 2017 https://www.consumerreports.org/prescription-drugs/how-best-to-organize-medications/

Amazon buys PillPack, an online pharmacy, for just under $1B, June 28, 2018 https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/28/amazon-buys-pillpack-an-online-pharmacy-that-was-rumored-to-be-talking-to-walmart/

Company website for PillPack.com, https://www.pillpack.com/

Company website for CVS Multi-Dose Packs, https://www.cvs.com/content/multidose

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