Reinventing The Pharmacy Experience From The Inside-Out

Reinventing The Pharmacy Experience From The Inside-Out
Health

In PSFK's latest Future of Health report, we caught up with Capsule CEO Eric Kinariwala to discuss why the traditional pharmacy experience is broken

Emily Wasik
  • 20 july 2017

While there have been some significant evolutions in the health industry—from surgical robots to bio-harnessing tools to smart hospitals—one area that has been left in the dust while every other element of the healthcare experience is riding off into the sunset is the pharmacy.

It’s right up there with slow wifi, those 14 seconds between Netflix episodes or waiting for your Seamless delivery on an empty stomach—being stuck in a pharmacy waiting line. The pharmacy experience of old was one where the pharmacist would know you by name and you’d be in and out before you could even say the word “pharmacy.” These days you wait in line for sometimes hours while the pharmacist scans candy bars and laundry detergent, and then when it’s finally your turn, they’ve run out of your medication.

Capsule to the rescue. Dubbed the “next-generation pharmacy here to make your life simpler and healthier,” Capsule is a smartphone app that connects directly to your doctor to deliver your medicine to your home or office at your convenience. As the brainchild of former Bain Capital investor Eric Kinariwala and longtime Walmart pharmacist Sonia Patel, Capsule’s mission is to alleviate the pain points of of going to a pharmacy, which ironically is the place where you’re supposed to get relief from what pains you.

We caught up with Eric to discuss why the pharmacy experience is broken and how he’s rebuilding it from the inside out.

PSFK: What is Capsule and how did the business concept came about?

Eric: If we rewind to two and a half years ago, I had a sinus infection and my head was throbbing. I got a prescription from my GP and went to the basement of a pharmacy on the Lower East Side of New York. My cell phone’s not working. I’m in line behind 25 people and I ended up waiting for an hour. I finally get to the counter and it turns out they don’t have my medication in stock. I went home scratching my head, like, “How could this be the experience today at pharmacies on every street corner in America?”

Then I ran into an old friend of mine, who’s been a pharmacist for 15 years. We started trading stories and asked ourselves, “What should a pharmacy in the modern age—in 2015—actually look like, as opposed to the pharmacies that exist today, which still look the same as they did 50 or 100 years ago?”

For us, the key elements are to create a completely simple and seamless experience by utilizing technology. I think technology is the key ingredient that’s been missing from this space for forever.

How is Capsule creating a more personalized experience at scale?

When you look at pain points that exist today, the pharmacy’s everything but better, smarter, faster, kinder. We basically rebuilt the entire pharmacy from the ground-up to make the entire experience—end-to-end—completely effortless. We provide free delivery whenever you want it, wherever you need it, to all five boroughs of New York. We’ve built technology and smarter refills to make the inventory predictive, so you don’t ever have to deal with out-of-stock medications. Your pharmacy will know exactly when you’re taking it and will bring you more medication before you run out. We have price transparency so you can know the actual price of your medications before you pay to get it. We coordinate with your doctor and your insurers to make sure you’re always getting the best price for the medication that you want.

The final thing that we’ve about the pharmacy is the privacy element. The last place you want to ask a personal question about your health is when there’s 20 people in a line behind you. We’ve built the ability to be able to chat with a pharmacist in a completely discreet way. For example, you might be about to eat dinner and you think, “Gosh, am I supposed to take this with food?” All those moments where you want somebody to be looking after you, we enable that to happen in a completely private and instantaneous way.

Our brand promise is: “Everybody needs some looking after sometimes.” That’s what we built the entire experience around, by asking the question, “What would it look like if your mom was your pharmacist?” She would do all these things for you. She would know the answer to all of your questions. She would make sure you never ran out. She would bring it to you when you wanted it. That’s how our brand and experience all tie together. Traditional pharmacies don’t do any of these things. What we’ve done is built an experience that not only does all of them, but they’re all tied together in a way that feels completely effortless.

What makes it a win-win for both the patients and the pharmacists?

Pharmacists go to school for a really long time and they are experts in medication. Oftentimes pharmacists know far more about the specific medications than physicians do, and that makes sense, because those two things are very separate. That said, hen you think about a chain pharmacy, you’re at the counter and there’s somebody checking out 20 different things that aren’t prescriptions, or somebody’s asking, “Hey, where’s the toilet paper?” “In aisle five.”

That’s not the right utilization of a healthcare professional. Our aim was to really remove all of that clutter and to be able to focus on the health care and medication aspects of pharmacy.

What sets you apart from traditional pharmacies?

We think about the pharmacy as a system. We’re holistically connecting all of the different parties in the ecosystem—the doctors, insurers, hospitals and drug companies, because everybody has a stake in medication and because it’s such an important part of everyone’s healthcare.

With health tech on the rise, where do you see the industry headed in 10 or 20 years?

For years, doctors and hospitals got paid based on how often patients went or how long they stayed, regardless of whether patients were actually getting better or not.

Now there’s new generation of companies, Capsule included, that are really focused on putting the patient experience front and center, because people do have a choice when it comes to where they go get their healthcare. For too long they haven’t had that choice.

What can we expect next from Capsule? What’s on the horizon this year and beyond?

I truly believe that everybody should have the Capsule experience, whether you live in New York or Chicago or suburban Detroit, which is where I grew up. Basically, our goal is to expand the business market by market.

Download the Future of Health report now!

While there have been some significant evolutions in the health industry—from surgical robots to bio-harnessing tools to smart hospitals—one area that has been left in the dust while every other element of the healthcare experience is riding off into the sunset is the pharmacy.

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