Online Tools for Practitioners: Supplement Dispensaries - Part 2


woman with a phone in her hand interacting with it

Sixty-four percent of physicians want an EMR system that is capable of providing secure communications with patients.

Choosing the right online dispensary

An online dispensary can be an inexpensive virtual employee and an extension of the practice. Instead of managing multiple manufacturer relationships, inventory, and shipping phoned-in orders, practitioners can address these common pain points and leverage efficiencies with an in-office dispensary.

However, not all online dispensaries provide the same features and efficiencies. Here are a few considerations when choosing an online dispensing tool.

Does it offer an extensive catalog and advanced search? Health care practitioners have a lot to choose from when it comes to dietary supplements. While a majority of those who dispense supplements consistently say that professional brands are made to a higher quality standard, (6) there are still many professional brands offering hundreds of products in the United States alone. With so many formulas to choose from, an online dispensary should offer an extensive brand catalog and optimized search functions to make finding the right products fast and easy. For example, a practitioner should be able to search by brand, formula type, and condition as well as more specific criteria such as allergens and use of particular ingredients. If they require a dairy-free supplement for a patient, the search function is advanced enough to filter based on such specifications.

Is it an authorized reseller? It is critical to make sure that an online dispensary is an authorized reseller of practitioner grade brands. This helps ensure that products are warehoused and shipped using manufacturer guidelines. For example, if a supplement requires refrigeration, the reseller must abide by the guidelines and deliver accordingly. What’s more, there is a real concern that a significant number of supplements sold online, including some professional brands, are counterfeit. (7)(8)

Does it streamline workflow for your medical practice? Since 2008, the number of health care practitioners who use EMR systems to improve practice efficiencies has jumped from 42% to 87%. (9) Virtual nutraceutical dispensing platforms similarly create time- and money-saving efficiencies in a practice and help patients effortlessly purchase the high quality, efficacious supplements prescribed. An ideal supplement dispensary platform will have a staff software development team, regularly developing additional features to enhance their system, based on user feedback. (Apple is a perfect example of this mindset—their team is constantly evolving the technology to improve user experiences—every new iOS system is better than the previous version). A technology platform with that same philosophy and core competence is essential.

Is the platform patient-friendly and does it support patient privacy? Patient privacy is critical and required by law when it comes to health care. So when practitioners utilize technology, they also want it to be secure. More than three in four physicians have adopted the use of certified EMR systems (10) that meet at least minimum standards for security and functionality as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sixty-four percent of physicians want an EMR system that is capable of providing secure communications with patients. (11) It’s just as important for online dispensaries to meet these standards and be HIPAA compliant to allow for safe and secure communication of personalized information and prescriptions.

Does it provide strong customer support? As with any tool or software system, questions and issues will inevitably arise. A system with a responsive customer support team can address technical questions and facilitate orders for practitioners and assist with shipping inquiries for patients. This is an essential service that saves practitioners time and resources.

Who is using the dispensary? Colleagues are a valuable resource in evaluating online dispensaries, providing the pros and cons of available platforms and offering a peer review to help make an informed choice.

6. Holistic Primary Care 2016 Practitioner Survey

7.  Erickson B. Popular goods sold through Amazon, Walmart and others are counterfeit. Government report. Feb. 26, 2018. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-walmart-newegg-third-party-sellers-sell-counterfeits-report-gao/

8. Caution: Watch out for counterfeit supplements. ReformingHealth.com. Mar. 23, 2018. http://reforminghealth.com/counterfeit-supplements/

9. Jamoom E, Yang N. Table of Electronic Health Record Adoption and Use among Office-based Physicians in the U.S., by State: 2015 National Electronic Health Records Survey. 2016 https://dashboard.healthit.gov/quickstats/pages/physician-ehr-adoption-trends.php

10. Ibid. 2015 National Electronic Health Records Survey. 2016

11. 2015 National Electronic Health Record Survey (NEHRS). https://dashboard.healthit.gov/quickstats/pages/physicians-view-download-transmit-secure-messaging-patient-engagement.php