PillPack Is The Pharmacy Of The Future
Let’s face it: pharmacies suck. There’s really nothing good about the experience as it exists today. But Massachusetts startup PillPack is changing that. It’s the first pharmacy truly dedicated to the customer experience.
The company has a physical pharmacy in Manchester, NH that can ship medications to 41 states. They don’t ship individual pill bottles, though—everything is sent in pre-sorted packets organized and labeled by date and time. They arrive on a roll in a dispenser, making it easy for people to stay on track. On Monday at 8 a.m., you just grab the packet labeled for that time and take the pills inside. The planning has been done for you.
PillPack also strives to offer stellar customer service. Pharmacists track down refills ahead of time, sort out insurance claims, and act as a go-between for customers with their physicians and insurance companies. Oh, and they’re available to answer questions 24/7 via email, phone, and chat. Can you believe we’re talking about a pharmacy?
And finally, PillPack offers a clean, intuitive dashboard that’s easy to use for all ages. It shows exactly what you should be taking, and when, as well as a full list of medications with photos of the pills themselves. It also provides all the billing info you need on a single page and a calendar to track upcoming shipments.
Behind PillPack are co-founders TJ Parker and Elliott Cohen.
“I’m a second-generation pharmacist,” Parker tells me, “and have spent most of my life watching people struggle with managing their medications—dozens of pill bottles, weekly trips to the pharmacy and time-consuming DIY organization—while their pharmacists had limited resources to help. As I’m sure you’ve experienced, retail pharmacies are often overworked, have no resources for real customer service, and afford their customers no privacy to ask sensitive questions about medications. Before starting PillPack, I was looking at retail pharmacy from the perspective of a recent pharmacy school graduate, and saw a system that was complicated, confusing and did little to support health or wellness for its customers. Meanwhile, I had spent a fair amount of time volunteering at MIT and taking classes at Mass College of Art during my time in pharmacy school, so had really developed a healthy understanding of design and technology. I saw a real opportunity to start a new kind of pharmacy combining my knowledge of the industry and this interest in design and technology.”
Parker and Cohen met through MIT’s Hacking Medicine in 2011. “We came together towards the end of 2012,” said Parker, “and started really investing in the idea of starting a company that could make it simple for customers to successfully manage their medications.”
PillPack is headquartered in Somerville, Massachusetts, a vibrant startup community also home to GreentownLabs, Formlabs, Grove, TapJoy, EchoNest, Brooklyn Boulders, and Theravid.
“We’re right next to Boston and Cambridge which of course have their own startup scenes,” Parker tells me. “It’s definitely a great time to be working on health in Boston. We benefited from the ecosystem here in starting PillPack—MIT’s Hacking Medicine, TechStars, and IDEO Boston were all important partners for us. Our physical pharmacy is located in a beautiful old mill building in Manchester, New Hampshire, which provides more space and easy access to air shipping.”
More than 30 million Americans take five or more prescriptions per day, and it’s a challenge to stay on top of them. Many people have to order refills three or four times a month, make multiple trips to the pharmacy to pick them up, and fight with insurance companies to make sure it’s all covered. Not to mention the struggles of organizing everything.
“It’s not shocking that around half of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed, wasting north of $100 billion every year,” says Parker.
Medication management is one of those things that has stagnated while the industry around it continues to advance. The last decade has produced a ton of new health tech, but the experience of going to the pharmacy and waiting in line hasn’t changed a bit. PillPack is the long-overdue solution people have been waiting for.
PillPack secured $4 million in funding in July 2013 and launched the service in February of this year. It raised another $8.75 million this October.
The service is currently available in 41 states, and Parker expects it to reach all 50 states by the end of the year.
As for the future, the company is focusing heavily on marketing to show people there’s an alternative to the traditional pharmacy. They’re also working on “some interesting mobile projects,” I’m told.
PillPack is definitely a startup to watch in 2015. Disruptive in every sense of the word, it’s going to redefine what people expect from their pharmacies.