Expanding Healthcare Access with Virtual Pharmacy Services [2024]

Virtual pharmacy services are revolutionizing the way medications are dispensed and managed, offering convenience, affordability and accessibility to patients. Explore the benefits of virtual pharmacies.

CoverMyMeds Editorial Team
June 19th, 2024
Abstract background with a pastel pink background with blue, orange, and pink stripes and rectangles.
Virtual pharmacies offer a cost-effective way for businesses to integrate pharmacy services without the traditional overhead.

The virtual pharmacy space is growing quickly, creating opportunities for healthcare providers to expand care services, and for non-healthcare businesses to enter the market with their own pharmacy offering.

The CoverMyMeds editorial team recently spoke with Austin Sacks, Sr. Director, Product Management to discuss the benefits of a virtual pharmacy for a variety of organizations, and what to look for in a virtual pharmacy provider.

What is a B2B virtual pharmacy?

Austin: Virtual pharmacies cover a range of business-to-business (B2B) solutions that provide organizations with innovative ways to simplify operations and expand their service offerings.

With a virtual pharmacy, patients can conveniently order their medications online, have them delivered to their door and communicate with a licensed pharmacist. These private-label offerings are subject to the same regulations as traditional pharmacies.

Virtual pharmacy providers leverage technology to deliver licensed pharmacist services, prescription filling and dispensing, logistics, fulfillment and home delivery. Some vendors also provide support for building and maintaining patient-facing apps and portals.

What types of businesses can benefit from a virtual pharmacy?

Austin: Beyond patient benefits, a virtual pharmacy can provide a strategic path to expand offerings by outsourcing the range of special competencies needed to run an online pharmacy to a trusted partner. That’s true for telemedicine organizations, health systems, retail businesses and pharma companies.

Virtual pharmacies can offer a cost-effective and relatively seamless way for businesses to integrate pharmacy services without the traditional overhead. By partnering with a reputable virtual pharmacy provider, businesses can elevate their customer experience, broaden revenue streams and maintain a competitive edge in the dynamic healthcare market.

Businesses that can benefit from a virtual pharmacy

  • Telemedicine organizations
  • Health systems
  • Retail businesses
  • Pharma companies

What barriers can a virtual pharmacy help these businesses overcome?

Austin: A virtual pharmacy can provide organizations with added capacity to offer a more complete patient experience and create new and diverse revenue opportunities. While there are benefits that apply to all types of organizations, each vertical has specific pain points that can be alleviated with the help of virtual pharmacy.

  • Telemedicine organizations can enhance their service offerings by integrating virtual pharmacy solutions. This allows them to provide a more complete patient journey, from consultation to prescription fulfillment, all under their brand. Instead of sending prescriptions to a pharmacy outside their care network, telemedicine organizations can now fill and ship prescriptions directly to patients.

  • Health systems often face challenges such as limited physical space to operate their own outpatient pharmacy. A virtual pharmacy can help overcome these barriers by providing central filling services that operate outside contract pharmacy restrictions. Some virtual pharmacies may not be subject to manufacturer-imposed 340B restrictions.

    This ensures compliance while simplifying inventory management and offering scalability in handling prescription volume. A turn-key virtual pharmacy solution also helps support other regulatory requirements and reduces the cost of operating an online pharmacy business.

    Virtual pharmacies can also help health systems capture second fills or refills as an extension of their “meds to beds” program. That’s particularly relevant for patients who don't revisit the health system for their prescriptions. With home delivery via the virtual pharmacy, health systems can enhance patient access to care and minimize the need for travel, which is especially important in underserved and rural areas.

  • For retail and ecommerce businesses such as grocers, health and wellness stores and general goods stores, a virtual pharmacy can be a strategic means to create new revenue streams with pharmacy services, without the need for an in-house pharmacy. With a turn-key virtual pharmacy solution, non-healthcare enterprises can outsource the responsibility of navigating regulatory requirements to a trusted partner, reducing both the risk and the cost associated with starting a pharmacy business.

    Opportunities also exist for large businesses to serve their own employee population. A virtual pharmacy can enhance employee health and wellness programs, and help employees save time spent seeking care. Dispensing prescriptions for employees can also serve as an added source of revenue, while also providing the employees with savings.

  • A virtual pharmacy gives pharma companies the opportunity to provide patients with a more integrated, cost-effective and convenient healthcare experience through a direct-to-patient (DTP) pharmacy. A DTP pharmacy model can also allow pharma companies to manage inventory more effectively, helping to ensure that patients receive the medication originally prescribed by their providers, rather than substitutions due to stock limitations at traditional pharmacies. (Read our blog "Lowering Barriers to a Virtual Pharmacy for Pharma Companies" for more information.)

A virtual pharmacy can provide organizations with added capacity to offer a more complete patient experience and create new and diverse revenue opportunities.

Austin Sacks
Sr. Director, Product Management, CoverMyMeds

What should businesses look for in a virtual pharmacy provider?

Austin: Here are some essential considerations when selecting a virtual pharmacy provider:

  • A reputable partner with proven expertise: Select a virtual pharmacy provider with a demonstrated history of success in the pharmacy sector. Look for a company with expertise in delivering virtual pharmacy, central fill and distribution services.
  • Robust prescription fulfillment capabilities with geographic diversity: Consider a virtual pharmacy provider with a nationwide network of fulfillment centers to ensure prompt and efficient medication delivery. Geographic diversity helps mitigate potential disruptions and ensures timely delivery.
  • Advanced technology and automation: Choose a virtual pharmacy provider that capitalizes on automation technology. Look for features such as automated medication dispensing, real-time inventory management and robust data analytics to optimize your pharmacy services.
  • Licensed pharmacy staff: It's essential to confirm that the virtual pharmacy provider has appropriately licensed and credentialed pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to support your patients. This should include responding to medication inquiries, delivering medication counseling and overseeing medication refills.
  • Customizable prescription labeling and packaging:
    To support a consistent brand experience, choose a virtual pharmacy provider that offers customizable prescription labeling and packaging. Seek a provider that can meet your unique branding specifications and deliver superior packaging materials.
  • Actionable data with visibility into prescribing and dispensing trends: Look for a virtual pharmacy provider that equips you with actionable data and analytics on prescribing and dispensing trends. Your provider should offer user-friendly reporting tools and dashboards for seamless data access and analysis.

Why choose CoverMyMeds as your virtual pharmacy partner?

Pharmacy as a Service from CoverMyMeds offers a single contract for pharmaceutical distribution, pharmacy services, medication procurement, pharmacy management system, staffing and national licensure.

We offer branded prescription label and packaging options to help expand patient trust and brand loyalty. With access to the CoverMyMeds Pharmacy dispensing network, you can accelerate time to therapy and provide a more convenient patient experience. Your branded pharmacy will also be listed and searchable in prescribers’ electronic health records.

CoverMyMeds’ partnership with UPS and FedEx allows us to offer direct-to-patient shipping that’s not only efficient but economical. Our geographic diversity and shipping redundancy enables us to optimize facility usage to support the timely arrival of medications.

Backed by our parent company McKesson, we have 30+ years of experience in high-volume automation. Customers benefit from McKesson’s pharmacy resources, including supply chain, logistics, distribution and more.

Ready to overcome the barriers to launching a virtual pharmacy?

To learn more, please visit our Pharmacy as a Service page for additional information and to get in touch with our team.

Visit us at the NACDS Total Store Expo at booth 221 on Aug. 17-19 in Boston. We’ll share the top takeaways from key sessions after the event – sign up for our News & Insights email to stay in the loop!

CoverMyMeds Editorial Team

The latest healthcare insights, floated right to your inbox.

There was an error submitting the form. Please refresh or try again later.
iPhone showcasing News and Insights Article