Case Study: Digital Pharmacy App Development

The digital-first approach is gaining traction in all areas of medicine. The adoption of telehealth is heavily promoted with an effort to put patients in charge of their own records. This includes pharmacies, as well, and they are expected to modify their manual processes to become more digitally enabled. 

The Inviggo team once again got a chance to participate in building a platform that will streamline communication between people and medical professionals; an application that will enable direct contact with pharmacies in order to manage prescriptions more easily. The app is built for the U.S. market, where prescriptions are issued by a doctor and for a specific pharmacy. Thus, when patients request the transfer of their prescriptions to a new location, they have to be prepared for the manual process that can take up to 2 months to complete. 

We made it our mission to build an application that will simplify this procedure while remaining manageable for all patients, even non-digital natives and people with disabilities.


Details

Industry: Healthcare

Compatibility: Last 2 versions of all modern (evergreen) browsers

Market: U.S.

Technologies: Gatsby (React), NestJS, MySQL, Elasticsearch, Google Cloud Platform


About the company and the project

The company we teamed up with offers a rich array of pharmacy and clinical services for all patients. They create solutions that will power the future of direct-to-patient health care and offer convenience that puts patients first. They recognized the need for digitally accessible telehealth products that will be widely available to all patients, regardless of their age, digital literacy, or disabilities that prevent them from taking advantage of all app features. 

The current project is built with Section 1557 of The Affordable Care Act in mind which clearly states that healthcare organizations are required to tailor their digital products to meet the needs of the aging population and people with disabilities. This means that any aspect of the health care program has to be accessible, including but not limited to appointment systems, electronic billings, statements, etc. The Act applies to all IT products - websites, web, and mobile applications - covering any electronic communication form and documents and statements shared via them. 


Project duration

Three full-stack Inviggo developers who have already obtained experience in the telehealth industry were selected to participate in this project. For the past three months, their sole focus was on building an application that would improve the prescription transfer process and streamline its flow. At the time of writing, the pharmacy app was still in the development phase.


Goals

The main objective is to build a practical and intuitive MVP application for mobile and desktop devices. Most importantly, the goal is to include components that will allow users with disabilities to use this app’s features in a way that is most suitable for them. 

With that in mind, we intend to:

  • Implement screen reader accessibility
  • Set up features that will allow safe and fast transfer of prescriptions from one pharmacy to the other
  • Integrate our app with Google Maps to help with locating pharmacies
  • Enable secure payment processing using Stripe which relies on a dependable ML fraud system to prevent illegitimate activities and integrates with most major credit card networks
  • Provide real-time insight via email into the status of the prescription transfer with the Salesforce integration


Challenges

While our developers boast extensive experience, with each new project arrives a distinct set of challenges that we always embrace wholeheartedly. We never pass up on the opportunity to learn and grow, and this cause helped us further advance our expertise as we were expected to build a uniquely intuitive application that will integrate with our client’s internal API. How did we do it?

Building an accessible web and mobile application

The first rule of building a digital pharmacy: the majority of users will not be tech-savvy. For this reason, it was necessary to build a pharmacy app that will be convenient for patients of all ages, especially patients with disabilities. 

For a digital product to be accessible, it has to be optimized for people with impaired hearing and vision, as well as people with tremors who need to use voice commands and not a keyboard or a mouse. The information has to be: 

  • perceivable (available in several forms)
  • operable (navigation accessible using a keyboard, speech, and gestures)
  • understandable (easy to read and comprehend)
  • robust (product compatible with modern browsers and other technologies)

Integration with client’s internal API

Seamless integration is necessary to secure the safety of user data. However, challenges vary depending on the software and the API in question, which is why specific tech skillset and experience are required to execute flawless integration with an internal API. It is time-consuming, extends the overall app development process, and doesn’t end there. After the application is launched, regular upgrades and maintenance are necessary to ensure easy access and absolute control. Fortunately, our developers are ready to fully commit and offer the support you would expect from an in-house team. 


Approach & technology stack

With all that in mind, our developers decided that the following technologies are necessary for successful pharmacy application development: Gatsby (React), NestJS, MySQL, Elasticsearch, Google Cloud Platform.

Elasticsearch, in particular, was selected as the most viable option in this case where we expect users to look for information on medications, allergies, and health conditions without knowing the exact name or terminology. The speed at which Elasticsearch analyzes billions of records in a matter of seconds, scalability in terms of throughput, cluster, and index size, as well as the ability to index diverse content types, made it ideal in our case where we expect a continual expansion of the database. 

Furthermore, we opted for Storybook to build UI from the ground up with atomic components in isolation. This allowed us to create UX tokens which we later took advantage of for reusable components in React. Storybook also helped streamline our workflow and hasten the development process because it enabled us to perform automatic visual tests and detect bugs that required our immediate attention. 

Results

At the time of writing this case study, the application was still in the development phase. Nevertheless, clear objectives were set well beforehand, and the results we continue to strive for include:

  • Process automation, that is, simplified use of pharmaceutical services 
  • Reduced time it takes to switch between two pharmacies
  • Fast and easy location search and access to the pharmacy
  • Quick and simple access to data 
  • Secure and efficient payment process
  • Atomic design