Walgreens Opens API for Mobile Prescription Scanning to Developers

Walgreens has introduced a new API that allows developers to incorporate the chain's prescription barcode-scanning technology in their mobile apps.

Walgreens has announced a new application program interface that allows third-party developers to incorporate the ability to scan barcodes from prescription bottles.

The API will allow consumers to use third-party apps to renew prescriptions at the pharmacy chain's more than 8,000 locations.

"People continue to become increasingly engaged with their mobile devices and use the technology to help make their day-to-day lives easier," Abhi Dhar, e-commerce chief technology officer at Walgreens, said in a statement. "By incorporating the Walgreens Prescription API, mobile app developers are providing users with an easy way to refill prescriptions and help them properly take their medication."

Walgreens offers a similar API for in-store photo services called QuickPrints SDK and API, allowing developers to incorporate the ability to print photos from a mobile app in the pharmacy chain's stores.

A $4.99 mobile personal health app for the iPad called Healthspek now incorporates the Walgreens API and allows users to refill prescriptions. The $1.99 iOS app PocketPharmacist for the iPhone and iPad also enables medicine-bottle scanning using the API, which Walgreens announced on Feb. 4.

Before offering the API, Walgreens had integrated a Refill by Scan feature in its own app, available for iOS, Android and BlackBerry. Users receive a text message from Walgreens when their medications are ready for pickup.

More than 40 percent of Walgreens' online refill requests originate from the chain's mobile app, according to MobiHealthNews.

The Walgreens native app allows users to find retail locations, set medication reminders, research information on medications, order photos and make appointments at its in-store Take Care Health System clinics, where board-certified nurse practitioners are available to provide exams.

A CVS Pharmacy app for iOS and Android offers similar medication-scanning capabilities. The app allows users to scan prescription barcodes using a smartphone's camera. It also provides the ability to identify pills by imprint, shape or colors.

Third-party developers can register for a user account on the Walgreens Developer Portal to access the API. They then receive an API key to access the service.

The goal of incorporating the Refill by Scan feature into mobile applications is to increase medication compliance and boost personal health management, Walgreens reported.

By opening its Refill by Scan feature to third-party developers, Walgreens is looking to tap the "creativity of the developer community," Dhar told MobiHealthNews.

Walgreens is offering the API for iOS version 3.2 and higher, Android version 2.3 and higher, Windows Phone 7 and 7.5, and BlackBerry version 6.0 and higher. The pharmacy chain built the checkout pages for the API using jQuery Mobile, an HTML5-based user interface system for mobile device platforms.

Barcode scanning is a growing trend in health care as the industry looks to scan records from paper into digital form.

In addition to consumer prescription refills, hospitals use similar barcode-scanning technology to track medication vials throughout a hospital workflow. Health care organizations are using barcoding technology to link patient data with electronic health records and keep track of surgical equipment. Companies that offer data-capture technology include Hewlett-Packard, Intermec, Lexmark and Zebra Technologies.