Local and Online Shopping
Some chronic diseases and conditions can be managed with a prescription medication alone. Others, however, may require you to buy medical supplies from retail stores for your everyday use at home. These may be supplies that you will need to purchase only once (such as a walker), supplies that you will need to replenish continually, or supplies that you will only need while you recover from a surgery or other medical condition. Where can you shop to find the items you need?
Types of Medical Supplies You May Need
Before looking at shopping options, take a moment to write down the supplies you need. Once you find a supplier, or if you wish to compare prices, it’s helpful to be able to track these in writing. Some of the supplies a person may need include:
- Supplies to give you greater independence, such as a walker, wheelchair, or scooter.
- Supplies to improve the safety of your home, such as bathroom railings and more.
- Supplies used after surgery, or to manage a device such as a chemotherapy port or PICC line.
- Ongoing supplies, such as bandages, incontinence products, or latex gloves.
- Items such as pill cases to manage and monitor your medications.
Shopping Locally or Online for Medical Supplies
Certain products should be fitted or examined in person, at the store. Other items are easy to buy online and have them shipped to your door. Sometimes buying online offers a greater number of options, sizes, or other customizations that aren’t as readily available in a brick and mortar store. Let’s look at some helpful tips, and then discuss options that are available both in person and online.
Ask for Local Options Near You
You can ask at your doctor’s office or when being discharged from an inpatient stay at a hospital or care center where you can buy supplies locally. There may be an independent medical supply store near the medical center or clinic. If you require supplies that aren’t commonly used, physicians at some medical centers will often make sure that supplies they recommend are available at these local stores.
Check With Your Insurer
Before buying any medical supplies, it is important to check with your insurer to determine which items are and are not covered. You may find that most of what you need can be paid for through medical insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
Check for Coupons and Deals
It’s also a great idea to check your supplier’s website for coupons and special deals. In some cases, you can stock up on necessary supplies during a big sale and save quite a bit. As some of these items can be very expensive (especially over time), you want to be sure you’re only spending money when necessary.If you’re ordering online, watch for the frequent deals for free shipping as well.The following retail medical suppliers have a well-known reputation across the nation and also offer an online shopping experience. It is useful to have both.
Walgreens has over 8,300 locations. They have a store in each state in the United States, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.Some of the services they offer include a drive-through pharmacy window, health and wellness clinics in about 700 of their stores, and flu clinics.
Home Medical Supplies
Categories of home medical supplies available from the Walgreens online store include:
- Air Care
- Bathroom Safety
- Bedding and Accessories
- Canes and Crutches
- Daily Living Aids
- Home Tests & Monitoring
- Lift Chairs
- Medical Nutrition
- Medical Scrubs and Clothing
- Mobility Equipment Accessories
- Pain Relief and Management
- Supports and Braces
- Walkers and Rollators
- Wheelchairs and Transport Chairs
CVS operates more than 7,300 retail stores, 30 onsite pharmacies, 31 specialty pharmacy stores, 13 specialty mail order pharmacies, four mail order pharmacies, and two websites as a result of their merger with Caremark/Rx: CVS.com and Caremark.com.CVS also has a MinuteClinic division that runs approximately 657 retail health care clinics.
- CVS is the largest provider of prescriptions, with more than 1 billion prescriptions filled or managed annually.
- The company employs more pharmacists and nurse practitioners than anyone else.
- They are everywhere as 75 percent of the U.S. population lives within 3 miles of a CVS/pharmacy.
- CVS is typically the retail pharmacy you will find located in medical centers.
- They have tallied more than 11 million MinuteClinic patient visits.
- The CVS ExtraCare Card is the number one retail loyalty program with more than 69 million active ExtraCare customers.
Home Medical Supplies
CVS has many of the same categories of home medical supplies as listed under Walgreens, including rollators and walkers, aids to daily living, support hosiery, incontinence protection, bathroom safety, diabetes care, and wound care supplies for the home.
With over 4,700 stores across 31 states and Washington, D.C., Rite Aid is another leading drugstore chain that has expanded its category of offerings into home medical supplies and convenience items.Like its competitors, Rite Aid hosts free online resources that can help you manage your disease or condition. There are tools for heart health, skin care, eye health, allergies, diabetes, and weight control, to name a few.
Rite Aid also has its own membership savings and rewards card program, as well as the option to print coupons from the website and then bring them to the store for additional savings. As with the other stores above, you can order your supplies online and have them shipped to you as well.Some categories of home health supplies that Rite Aid sells online and in their stores include:
- Bath safety products
- Home blood pressure monitors
- Heating pads, water bottles, and thermometers
- Mobility aids
- Pill cases and pill splitters
4 Bottom Line on Finding Medical Supplies
Whether you prefer to pick up your medical supplies in person or order online, there are many options to choose from. Due to their large size, the retailers above often have a wide variety of options and reasonable prices.For some items, a medical supply store near your medical center may have better options for specific supplies recommended by the physicians at that center.
With all options, it pays to compare prices and purchase on sale when you can. With both supplies and prescription medications, studies show U.S. prices can vary widely. This occurs not only between different pharmacies, but within a specific company but between different states (Walgreens and CVS were consistent, but Rite Aid varied by 20 percent in a 2017 study). Since medications and supplies add up, and since there isn’t a single pharmacy that is consistently lower, it could be very helpful to compare the cost of each of your drugs and supplies at the different pharmacies and medical supply stores available, and also compare in person and online prices.
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