Picking up prescription medication often requires a good deal of patience. First, there’s the frequently long line you have to brace for; then, there’s the chance that the pharmacy never got the script from the doctor or thinks there’s a problem with your health insurance (when there isn’t). In rarer, but more harmful cases, pharmacies can dispense the wrong drugs or dosages, causing adverse drug events that can lead to hospitalization or, in some situations, even death.
Electronic prescribing that ostensibly enables doctors to route prescriptions directly to pharmacies without phone calls, faxes or paper has been shown to reduce errors. But a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup called ZappRx believes it can further reduce errors, lower costs for pharmacies and increase convenience for consumers with a mobile app and e-prescribing system that connects doctors, pharmacies and patients.
On Monday, the startup announced a small private beta test in New York including two doctors at the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center (one of whom is the center’s director) and the independent Zitomer Pharmacy.
More doctors are prescribing medication electronically – according to a report from e-prescription company SureScripts, 44 percent of prescriptions were sent electronically in 2012, up from 36 percent in 2011. And pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens already offer consumers mobile apps that let them refill and pay for prescriptions from their phones.
But ZappRx founder Zoe Barry said even prescriptions routed electronically can require old-fashioned faxing back and forth and phone calls if the pharmacist has questions or spots potential errors. And while mobile apps from big retail pharmacies let patients manage prescriptions on the go, the current prescription system locks patients into one pharmacy for refills. That means patients can’t always use the pharmacy location most convenient for them and it means that, if they’re on multiple medications, one pharmacy may not maintain a complete profile of their prescriptions.
“ZappRx is like a mobile boarding pass for prescriptions,” said Barry. The system, which is introduced to the patient by the doctor, enables a patient to track her medications and store all her relevant payment and insurance information on the phone. The company enables pharmacies to pre-process her information so that when she arrives at the drug store to pick up new medication, she just needs to show the app to the pharmacist. The app also lets patients set reminders and track when they take their medication – and it informs the doctor when the medication has been picked up.
Further, the startup says it makes it easier for doctors and pharmacists to communicate electronically, so that if a pharmacist has a question or identifies a potential mistake, he doesn’t need to print out the script, handwrite questions and fax it to the doctor’s office, which can often suck up additional time and money. According to ZappRx estimates, big retail pharmacies could be losing a couple hundred million dollars each year in lost productivity from checking and fixing mistakes from e-prescriptions.
While a smoother checkout process could certainly appeal to patients and pharmacies and doctors may be drawn to a service that streamlines their workflow and reduces errors, scaling a system that that ties so many parties together could be a challenge. And, when it comes to the patient engagement and medication adherence piece, the app has several competitors.
But the startup, which plans to earn revenue by charging pharmacies for the service, has raised a small seed round of $160,000 from investors including Michael Silverman, COO of Pinterest rival the Fancy.