Hand Delivery, No Lines, Pharmacist Chats — You Call This a Pharmacy?

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It’s right up there with sitting in rush hour traffic on the DC Beltway or hanging out in my doctor’s waiting room the joy of picking up prescriptions.

The local pharmacy was once a place with some communal value where you knew the pharmacist and (because the healthcare system was less laden with regulations) could expect to be in and out before needing to take a bathroom break. Today? Not so much.

The last time I dropped by my local big-box pharmacy was pretty much like the time before, which was much the same as the visit before that: heading from the front of the store to the back, navigating past AS SEEN ON TV must-have items, and finally to within view of the pharmacy. And then I saw it: the dreaded line. Should have been no surprise because it’s apparently a permanent fixture. I’m fairly certain the people change but there’s always at least four warm bodies shifting and agitating. Add to that, a couple of my recent concluded with a friendly clerk who informing me “We’re really sorry but we’re out of your medication right now… Would you like me to check another of our pharmacies?”

Practically speaking, all of this is low hanging fruit for an enterprising entrepreneur looking dramatically improve the experience for millions all feeling the same frustrations. Enter Capsule.

Capsule dubs itself a “next-generation pharmacy here to make your life simpler and healthier.” We recently caught up with founder and healthcare investor Eric Kinariwala to find out exactly how his startup is going to take the pain out of getting relief from what ails us.

Cofounder Eric Kinariwala and Chief Pharmacist Sonia Patel

Tell me about the origin of Capsule … Who created it and when, and what was the goal?
Like many New Yorkers, I got sick during flu season and went to a chain pharmacy to pick up a Z-Pak. After spending an hour in line overhearing customers ahead of me speak to the pharmacist about their personal questions I was turned away without my medication, as my medication was out of stock. I recounted this experience to an old friend, Sonia Patel, now Capsule’s Chief Pharmacist, who at the time was working to troubleshoot underperforming pharmacies across the country. She provided additional insight of the frustrations experienced not only by consumers but pharmacists alike within the current system. Armed with this knowledge, and our shared frustrations, Sonia and I set out on a mission to build Capsule.

A pharmacy seems like a highly regulated entity. How did Capsule navigate all that?
There is tremendous room for change in this space, but building a pharmacy like ours takes a dedicated team of both pharmacy professionals and technologists. While others have worked to solve specific issues in the industry, our mission is to fundamentally rebuild the pharmacy from the inside out. And while tackling the problem as an end-to-end experience is challenging, it’s also what allows us to innovate in such a highly regulated space.

You say you’re better, smarter, faster, kinder… talk about why?
Enormous strides have been made in healthcare technology in recent years but the pharmacy industry has struggled to adapt and improve. Capsule provides people with a seamless experience both through technology and a personalized touch. We do more than just hand out medication by eliminating the familiar frustrations of pharmacies to provide smarter care than has ever been possible before. Capsule is building the first emotionally resonant brand in healthcare by providing direct access to a real person that remembers who you are, what you need and when you need it.

Is there a fee to use the service?
No, it is completely free to use Capsule. People only pay their copays and have full price transparency for their prescriptions before scheduling delivery.


What’s the benefit to doctors?
Capsule makes the healthcare experience effortless for doctors and insurers alike. Our team of pharmacy experts manages all patient care, working directly with doctors and insurers to manage copays and refills, inventory to make sure your medication is there when you need it and follow-up care so you’re always looked after.

screenTalk about the logistics behind delivery… How long does it generally take to fill and deliver?
Every doctor can send prescriptions to Capsule. At your doctor’s appointment, you can simply let your doctor know your pharmacy is Capsule and we’ll handle the rest. Immediately after we receive your prescription, we’ll be in touch to schedule delivery within 2 hours anywhere in New York City. We deliver to your home, office or anywhere it’s needed.

You offer an app for participants. How does that help?
The Capsule app acts as a platform to connect members with our pharmacy. Anyone can download Capsule on their iPhone and securely register their health information. Members can send new a prescription through their doctor, transfer refills directly in the app or on our website, order for family members and see their full order history all in the app. Other features of the app include live chat which connects members with a Capsule pharmacist. These features and more have been created to rebuild the pharmacy experience from the inside out and provide smarter care than has ever been possible.

Capsule is currently only in Manhattan? What is your expansion plan?
Capsule is available in all five boroughs of New York City. We believe that everyone deserves a better pharmacy experience and so our ambition is to expand to additional markets in the near future. That being said, our current focus is to provide the best care possible for the people of NYC. As the great Frank Sinatra once said, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”.

RickRRick Robinson is SVP of Product for on-demand roadside assistance startup Urgent.ly. He is also an advisor to Street Fight. Follow him at @itsrickrobinson