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“In order to get a prescription, you need to get the prescription written by a licensed physician that’s in the state where you’re actually residing,” affirms Randy Parker, CEO and founder of GeniusRx, an online pharmacy licensed in all 50 states. So, technically, no – you cannot get a prescription without seeing a doctor.
But you can get one without seeing a doctor in person thanks to telemedicine. In some cases, at least a video consultation is required in order for a doctor to prescribe medications. In other instances, you might be able to just have a phone call or simply fill out a questionnaire online (which will be reviewed by a physician). The rules on this vary depending on your state, the type of medication, and the patient’s age.
Telehealth apps have made it possible to have a remote meeting with a physician and have them prescribe the appropriate medication to you without ever setting foot in an office. During the pandemic, we saw close to 100% of medical visits going virtual, says Parker, many of which involved a doctor prescribing some form of medication.
There are normally exceptions to this, namely if the medication the patient needs is a controlled substance. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has allowed even controlled substances to be prescribed by telemedicine doctors during the pandemic, and those relaxed rules have yet to revert back.
For less risky health matters, you may not even have to speak to the doctor by phone or see them over a live video conference to get a prescription, notes Parker. Instead, you can have an asynchronous, two-way HIPAA compliant chat, in which the patient answers a set of questions that the provider then reviews. The provider may determine that a follow-up by video or phone is needed before filling the prescription, or they might be able to move forward without additional steps. Again, this depends on your state’s regulations.
Parker says some states allow certain medications to be prescribed after a compliant questionnaire is reviewed. In the remaining states, a secure video teleconference or phone consult is the minimum requirement.
“You can have a primary care doctor send a script to an online pharmacy for a refill order, but not a new script,” says Parker. If you need a new medication or your refills on an ongoing medication have finished up, you will have to have a virtual visit in order for them to create or renew your prescriptions, he adds.
“Telehealth doesn’t replace the need to still have to see your physician for physical exams or omit the need to do blood tests and other follow-ups. It’s just an efficient way to manage a refill,” adds Parker.
Today, there are also a number of digital pharmacy solutions and platforms that offer more of a direct-to-consumer approach, including Hims, Hers, Lemonaid, and GeniusRX. For the most part, these platforms are geared toward individual consumers looking to save money on medications for chronic conditions, or for a medication that is lifestyle driven like for erectile dysfunction, hair loss, or birth control, says Parker.
“We also use the pharmacist in a telepharmacy world to do what we call swaps, which is to make the recommendation to the patient about therapeutic equivalents that would be more cost-effective, but also in many cases better,” says Parker. In a select number of states, pharmacists can actually prescribe certain medications like birth control on their own, without sign-off from a doctor.
Going the online route will almost always speed up the process of getting a prescription since in-person appointments aren’t always easy to arrange on the fly. But for most situations in which you need a new medication or a refill, expect to have at least a virtual visit with a physician. You can meet with a doctor via a telemedicine platform or set up a virtual appointment with your regular physician if available. Once complete, they can send prescriptions directly to your local pharmacy where you can pick up or arrange delivery.
Parker says consumers can also go directly to an online pharmacy platform like GeniusRX.com to order certain types of medication, or to transfer over existing prescriptions they’re already taking. “We can then send it to your home in the most convenient way,” he says.
OnlineDoctor.com interviewed this expert for article guidance:
Randy Parker, CEO and founder of GeniusRx