Today, technology is in the process of transforming healthcare. The whole nine years: From software, medicine and insurance to fitness, care delivery and the very science behind all of it. By now, this probably sounds like a familiar refrain, and for good reason. Whether it’s the adoption of EMRs, Quantified Self-inspired wearable tech, social health communities or new digital medicines like Proteus’ FDA-approved ingestible sensors and “smart pills,” change is coming fast.
Of course, future promise notwithstanding, big problems remain. Outdated business models, misaligned incentives and archaic infrastructure abound in healthcare. The system’s focus is shifting from treatment to prevention and towards a patient-centric model, towards better outcomes and lower costs but progress is slow. Ask ZappRx founder Zoe Barry about the inefficiency and need for better tech in healthcare, and she’ll probably point you in the direction of your local pharmacy.
Most people have experienced firsthand how frustrating the simple process of filling and picking up a prescription can be. Usually, it starts with a long line, before you learn that there’s been a miscommunication between pharmacist and your doctor, or that you don’t have health insurance, there’s a problem — oh wait, everything’s fine, just wait over there for 10 minutes. The whole process is slow, dumb, inefficient and hasn’t changed much since the Millard Fillmore administration.
Barry founded ZappRx after witnessing a college student looking to fill prescriptions before heading back to school be subjected to an unusually inept and frustrating version of the Pharmacy Shuffle. The young woman was even attempting to pick up an ePrescription, but still, the process failed. Yes, doctors are increasingly turning to ePrescribing solutions to digitize the process, but how much good does an electronic prescription do if it’s being used on top of archaic infrastructure and one-way APIs?
The data-flow is still pretty much one-sided. Spend 10 minutes in your local pharmacy and you’ll see most prescription verification, confirmations, ordering, fulfilling and so on happen over the phone or via the fax machine. Just as Y Combinator and Rock Health grad, Eligible, wants to do with APIs to help reduce the time it takes for hospitals and insurance companies to confirm coverage and eligibility (for surgery and other procedures), Barry has built ZappRx to take the giant pain in the ass out of pharmacy visits.
Recently, I’ve begun to notice what has seemed like a step in the right direction. Some of the big pharmacy chains now offer mobile apps to help people manage their prescriptions. My local Walgreens, for example, sends me SMS alerts when a prescription is ready to be picked up.
It’s a step in the right direction, sure, but a small one. In reality, consumers don’t want to get roped into one particular app or proprietary system. They want to download one app and use it any pharmacy they go to, and that’s what ZappRx offers.
Furthermore, most of the major pharmacies offer little to no security in their mobile apps, if they do offer them. This is another place Barry believes ZappRx can offer a better solution, as the startup’s platform and apps are HIPAA-compliant, meaning you get control of your data — not your pharmacy — and you won’t find ads, coupons or promotions sitting right next to your medical data.
On the other hand, the current system, being largely phone and fax-based, offers doctors very little real visibility into what happens after they write the prescription — or into medication history. Did their patient fill the prescription? The only way is to call the pharmacy.
ZappRx wants to offer pharmacies that backend processing they don’t currently have, and transactions, while making it easier for doctors to track pickup and fulfillment and communicate electronically with the pharmacy. The app also enables pre-processing, which is huge time saver on both sides. Pharmacies can get a jump start on filling prescriptions, dealing with any hiccups and working more around their schedule, rather than on deadline while an angry customer screams at them and their doctor. And, meanwhile, customers get to skip the line. It’s like OrderAhead for pharmacies.
And while this may all sound like minutuae and like something that has a negligible effect on service quality, ZappRx estimates that the inefficiencies in this model cost drug stores an average of $1.2 billion every year.
Of course, with the largest pharmacy chains in the country, like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Target, owning the lionshare of the market (and tens of thousands of stores collectively), as good as ZappRx’s solution may sound, pharmacies still need to get on board. The startup is currently in the process of working on deals with a few of the big players, although the founder declined to comment on specifics.
Meanwhile, as it works to secure key revenue-generating partnerships with pharmacies, ZappRx’s model has nonetheless scored some validation, as the startup this week announced that it has raised $1 million in seed funding led by Atlas Ventures, Life Sciences Angel Network, Hakan Satiroglu and a handful of other angel investors. ZappRx also added Jay Silverstein, a founding member of Oxford Health, NaviNet founder and CEO, Will Cowen and Keas.com founder George Kassabgi as advisors.
For more, find ZappRx at home here.