Capsule is rebuilding the corner pharmacy "from the inside out."
Photograph by Dimitri Otis via Getty Images
By Laura Lorenzetti
May 17, 2016

No more waiting in lines, sneezing into your sleeve while you wait to see if the local pharmacy finally has that antibiotic you need. A new pharmacy is launching in New York City today that wants to change that whole experience, starting with a digital platform and a small army of messengers.

Capsule is a new digital-only pharmacy that bills itself as “the pharmacy you’ll never have to visit but might want to.” It’s the brainchild of Eric Kinariwala, an investor who worked at Bain Capital and Perry Capital, and Sonia Patel, a longtime pharmacist who worked with Walmart to help troubleshoot underperforming pharmacies. The two knew the pain points of the modern pharmacy well: inconsistent inventory, long wait times, and awkward interactions to get the information you need.

“The consumer experience is broken,” said Kinariwala. “Going to the pharmacy is a half step from going to the post office. The average consumer waits for an hour; people have to go back because their medicine is out of stock; they don’t understand the medicines because of dense leaflets.”

“We realized how disconnected the pharmacy is from the rest of the health care system,” said Patel. “So, we set out to rebuild it from the inside out.”

Kinariwala and Patel call Capsule the next generation pharmacy. It’s available via smartphone app that connects directly to your doctor and then delivers your medicines to you via messenger, either at work or at home when the time is convenient for you. It will arrive within two hours or within a chosen time window.

The copays are the same based on your insurance and delivery is free. The digital platform also connects you directly and privately to a pharmacist by either text or phone if you have questions or concerns. No worries that the person behind you in line is overhearing everything you need to know about how that new antibiotic interacts with your birth control. A Capsule pharmacist is available on-demand when you need it.

“It allows pharmacists to talk at a time and place that is more comfortable and convenient,” said Patel. “Pharmacists love this, as well, because it can encourage more effective therapy changes, which ultimately leads to better health.”

More importantly, Capsule has rebuilt the pipes and platform behind the pharmacy, which makes things like smart refills and predictive inventory management possible. By having one central pharmacy, Capsule is able to ensure that the medications people are ordering are there when they need it. That’s often a major problem with retail pharmacies. Nearly four in 10 people have to return to their pharmacy due to out-of-stock prescriptions, according to a Pharmacy Satisfaction survey. (The back end was built by Tim Vetter, who is better known for building Foursquare.)

“One of the disheartening feedback points from traditional pharmacies has been from patients who take a medicine regularly and find it out of stock at their regular location even though they are coming in every month,” said Kinariwala. “Our inspiration is to fix that. We built the technology that can help figure that out in advance to make sure we have the medicines our customers need.”

 

Capsule also has a big goal of helping curb the problem of patients not taking prescribed medicines. The platform creates a two-way conversation with the doctor. Once the prescription is submitted, the interaction between doctor and Capsule doesn’t end. Capsule offers adherence reports to provide better insight into what’s happening after the medicine is prescribed, which is especially vital for conditions like depression where medicines can take weeks before offering relief or even heart disease where patients can lapse in their treatments.

Capsule plans to extend beyond New York City and wants to serve as many people as possible, though Kinariwala says that the company will first establish itself in the city before announcing any new cities.

“As the old adage goes, ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,'” said Kinariwala. “Though, ultimately, we believe everywhere across American deserves a better pharmacy, a smarter pharmacy. We believe this model can also work nicely in areas that aren’t as dense or urban as NYC.”

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