How Apps Can Help Save on Healthcare Costs

Websites and apps can offer discounts for most drugs, but many Americans still are not using them.

New smartphone applications can help patients save on prescription drugs much like Expedia helps people find the cheapest airfares, The New York Times reported.

Studies have shown that financial problems can cause patients to leave their prescriptions unfilled, but only about 17% of patients are willing to look for less expensive pharmacies, according to a Consumer Reports survey. These apps and websites are able to search the prices of local pharmacies and apply various discounts and coupons that the customer can download to get the lowest prices.

Apps like GoodRx and WeRx are able to sift through the confusing and constant negotiations between pharmacies, drugmakers, and pharmacy benefit managers that result in price differences to find customers the lowest prices, according to the article.

Patients taking generic drugs that do not have insurance or are insured but have high copayments will likely benefit the most from these apps and websites. Since generic drugs are likely to be manufactured by multiple companies, there is a greater range in prices and they are more willing to offer discounts and coupons to increase sales.

However, there are less discounts for branded drugs since they are typically only manufactured by 1 company. The New York Times states that GoodRx can find manufacturer coupons for more expensive drugs like Humira.

Since these coupons and discounts cannot be used in conjunction with insurance, these services offered by apps and websites are causing insurers to be bothered since it makes out-of-pocket costs for branded drugs similar to costs for generics.

A majority of these discounts found are offered by pharmacy benefit managers that negotiate lower prices and have separate businesses that offer cash discount cards, according to the article.

"The vast majority of Americans just don't know there are all these tools available and there's so much room to save if only they know how to take advantage of them," concluded Doug Hirsch, founder and CEO of GoodRx.