What Kind of Pharmacy is Right for You?

Meghan Cahalane
Nov 1, 2019 · 4 min read

Yep, you have more than one option.

Pharmacies operate in a variety of settings, each helping patients in different ways. Here’s how to tell which of the four most commonly used types of pharmacies might be best for you.

Retail pharmacy

As the name suggests, these pharmacies are found in brick-and-mortar locations, such as drug stores, grocery stores and large retailers. They can be independent and locally owned or part of a chain.

At a retail pharmacy, you can fill your prescriptions, talk to your pharmacist about how to correctly take your medications, ask for advice on choosing over-the-counter medicine and even get immunizations and health screenings. Because retail pharmacies offer such a wide range of services and medical expertise, they often serve as a healthcare access point in their communities.

This pharmacy might be right for you if: It’s conveniently located, you need your medications the same day they were prescribed, you enjoy picking up other essentials while you’re there, or you prefer an in-person connection with the pharmacist who’s dispensing your medications. You can also use a retail pharmacy to pick up medications you purchase through Blink Health. See if a retail pharmacy near you is in the Blink network.

Hospital and clinic pharmacies

Did you know there’s a pharmacy inside your hospital? Hospital pharmacists work with doctors and nurses to manage the medications patients take while they’re in the hospital. Some also dispense medications for outpatient care — patients whose hospital stay is over can pick up their prescriptions on their way out.

A clinic pharmacy is similar, operating inside or attached to a clinic or doctor’s office. If your doctor prescribes a medication during your visit, you may be able to pick it up at the clinic’s pharmacy. Some even sell other health-related items and toiletries, similar to a retail pharmacy.

This pharmacy might be right for you if: You’ve been discharged from the hospital with a prescription (just pick it up on your way out) or you just had a doctor’s appointment where a medication was prescribed and you’d rather fill it at the clinic instead of making an extra stop or waiting for mail order delivery.

Mail order pharmacies

A mail order pharmacy receives your prescription electronically, fills it at a licensed facility, then ships it to your home (it can take up to two weeks to receive your medication). Home delivery may also be available at your local retail pharmacy (check with the pharmacy staff), or through Blink Health.

Although mail order pharmacies do not have brick-and-mortar stores or pharmacists that you interact with in-person, pharmacists are always available to speak with by phone.

Often, patients access a mail order pharmacy through their health coverage provider or PBM, which might run their own mail order pharmacy or have a preferred one they direct their members to use.

Keep in mind that if your prescription must be filled right away, such as with an antibiotic, this type of pharmacy might not meet your needs.

This pharmacy might be right for you if: You have drug coverage and you take a recurring prescription on a regular basis. Mail order pharmacies may offer savings, like a three-month supply of your medication for the price of one- or two-months’ worth because they process orders in bulk.

Specialty pharmacy

Specialty pharmacies dispense and counsel on medications for complex or less common conditions, such as cancer, auto-immune diseases, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, infertility and more. If your medication has specific storage requirements, it also may be dispensed by a specialty pharmacy.

Pharmacists in a specialty setting are ready to provide thorough patient education, especially around complex medical conditions. They can take the time to ensure patients know how to take their medications as well as manage their meds alongside any other treatments they’re pursuing.

Specialty pharmacies can be owned by hospitals, doctor’s offices, provider groups or even pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) — the middlemen who manage drug plans for insurers and employers. Most specialty pharmacies are mail-order and will take care of shipping your medication to you, making sure any storage requirements are met, while some you can visit in-person, like you would a retail pharmacy.

This pharmacy might be right for you if: You’re taking medication for a rare or complex condition or are taking a drug that requires extra knowledge to administer (like an injectable).

Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 536 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10012, (844) 366–2211, www.blinkhealth.com


Healthcare and the prescription drug industry are complicated. That’s why Blink Unscripted is here. To help you understand it a little better so you can get and do what you need to be healthy.

Meghan Cahalane

Written by

Pharmacist at Blink Health, helping patients afford their medications. Graduate of University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.


Healthcare and the prescription drug industry are complicated. That’s why Blink Unscripted is here. To help you understand it a little better so you can get and do what you need to be healthy.

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