NEW YORK — On-demand prescription delivery start-up Zipdrug may have just rolled out in July, but the idea for the company had been bouncing around in founder Stu Libby’s head for a while before he made any moves to act on it. The first time he thought about bringing on-demand delivery to patients, he was in line at a pharmacy.
“I’m waiting in a really long line, I needed my medication,” Libby told Drug Store News. “In addition to being a New Yorker who’s impatient, I had to go to the airport and I thought, ‘There are so many things you can get delivered on demand, I don't understand why there's not a service specifically tailored for health care and prescriptions specifically.’”
It was a few months later, after his father had been discharged from a hospital and moved to a cardiac rehabilitation facility without his medications — despite receiving information from doctors and nurses about the importance of medication adherence — that Libby realized an on-demand delivery service might be able to provide more than convenience. So he got to work, assembling a team and even making deliveries before developing a digital platform in order to understand what the undertaking would require, eventually launching the company’s pilot — a phase Libby says the company is still in.
“We have a few health care providers that we work with, we have a handful of pharmacies that we're integrated with, although we support deliveries from any pharmacy,” he said. “We're just trying to make sure we get our operations down right and our protocols down right so we can scale.”
Currently in Manhattan, patients can download the Zipdrug app and request delivery from any pharmacy on the island, then have it delivered to their door by one of Zipdrug’s HIPAA-trained, background-checked and drug-screened messengers, who patients can track on a map and communicate with if necessary. Libby says customer counts have doubled month-over-month since its July launch, with about a 35% repeat business rate.
Zipdrug is looking to cover a wider area by the end of 2015 and start exploring other markets in 2016, but it has already entered a partnership to grow its base in New York, working with house call app Pager to offer prescription delivery to its customers.
“I started thinking a lot about how points of care are really expanding, it's not just a brick-and-mortar practice anymore,” Libby said about working with Pager, adding that it and telemedicine are changing how patients and doctors interact. “But the common denominator between all of those experiences is that patients still have to go back to the pharmacy to retrieve their medications. ... The way we see it, Zipdrug, as a service offering for those healthcare providers really represents the last mile of expanding the point of care to be more convenient — a better matchup to consumer demand today around efficiency and convenience and cost,” he said.
And though much has been made about Zipdrug as a response to consumer behavior (it certainly is that), Libby points out that there is also a Zipdrug platform for pharmacies, allowing them to initiate the service and turn to Libby’s “small army” of messengers for their delivery needs.
“Instead of sending out a messenger where you don't know what time the medications will arrive — if they did arrive — and there's a paper confirmation from the patient, we digitize all of that and make it really easy and accountable and transparent, which ultimately will lower costs and help increase adherence for pharmacies,” Libby said, adding that Zipdrug’s exact ETAs are an improvement over more common delivery windows. “Waiting for your prescription medication shouldn't be like waiting for your cable installation. It should have a precise time that you know it comes.”
As the company grows, Libby’s hope is that Zipdrug can assume a place in the protocol surrounding a patient’s treatment so that even if a patient isn’t the one initiating a delivery, they are the ones benefitting, and the health system can benefit from the money saved by improved adherence.
“I really believe that Zipdrug is an intervention that can be deployed by payers, by health systems, by manufacturers, by employers that can reduce overall healthcare costs and get improved patient outcomes,” he said. “Because… medication non-adherence is an enormous problem...it's just as simple as getting patients their medication.”