I. Can you get a prescription through telemedicine?

“Depending on the type of prescription and the type of telemedicine, yes, you can get a prescription through telemedicine,” affirms Dr. Saya Nagori, founding physician at SimpleHealth, which offers online prescriptions, automatic refills, and free home delivery for birth control.

Because it’s a low-risk medication, birth control is just one example of prescriptions that can be provided safely via telemedicine for the majority of patients, she adds. Others may include medications for acne or common ailments like acid reflux.

II. Are there medications that can't be prescribed through telemedicine?

For new or serious conditions that develop and may require further examination or testing, doctors may suggest that an in-person visit or diagnostic exams are necessary before prescribing medications.

In addition, controlled substances usually can’t be prescribed via telemedicine, says Dr. Nagori. “But this is state-dependent and some states have adapted their laws due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she adds.

In fact, during the pandemic, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made an exception to allow controlled substances to be prescribed by a telemedicine doctor, even if that was their first encounter with the patient. Telemedicine visits must be in real-time and include video, meaning phone-only appointments would not allow for prescriptions.

Without the exception for the public health crisis, physicians have to follow the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, which restricts doctors from writing prescriptions during an online visit for opioids and other controlled substances unless an in-person exam was conducted prior. The COVID-19 exemption may revert back once there is more access and the risk of in-person visits decline, but for now, it is allowed.

III. How can patients benefit from prescriptions through telemedicine?

Telemedicine services can make it easy for patients to acquire new prescriptions online, get automatic refills, and even set up free home delivery of medications, says Dr. Nagori.

Having the ability to access healthcare and get prescriptions from your own home is convenient for people who are under the weather and don’t want to go sit for an unpredictable amount of time in an urgent care waiting room. It’s also time-saving since there is no travel involved, which can help people stay on top of appointments needed to get their prescription refills. Telemedicine can also be lower cost than an in-person visit, plus there are no additional travel costs or parking fees to worry about.

If you’re in need of a prescription for a common issue or a refill, especially if it’s low-risk, all you have to do is set up a telemedicine appointment, see a doctor online (whether it’s your regular doctor or an on-call physician via a telehealth app), and then get your prescription sent to your local pharmacy.

IV. How long does it take to get a prescription through telemedicine?

Once a physician provides a diagnosis that includes a prescription for medication, they can put the order through right to your preferred pharmacy. In many cases, it should be ready within a couple of hours for you to pick up.

However, the time to fill some prescriptions vary, says Dr. Nagori. “It’s highly dependent on the type of medication that is needed for the patient and the medium of telemedicine used,” she says. “For example, some situations may require additional review from the telemedicine provider and can take more time versus other lower-risk meds.”

If you are getting a prescription refill and already have an active account with your pharmacy, the process should move fairly quickly once the doctor’s order hits the system.

Now that you know how to get a prescription online through telemedicine, it’s another option to consider if you are having a hard time getting an office appointment or can’t find the time to get there.

V. Expert

OnlineDoctor.com interviewed this expert for article guidance:

Dr. Saya Nagori, founding physician at SimpleHealth

VI. Sources