Tackling the pharmacy consumer experience from the ground up

For almost 50 years we have built Virgin around the simple premise that businesses should make people’s lives better, often by taking poor consumer experiences and improving them. Whether in airlines, financial services or media and telecom, we have focused on customer’s frustrations and relied on our people to create great customer service and results. It is in our DNA. 

When looking at Capsule, a New York start-up trying to revolutionise the pharmacy experience, I was struck with how similar its approach was and how it too was started due to frustration in how things were done. Its CEO Eric Kinariwala had a terrible experience at a chain pharmacy in New York and came to the realisation that the pharmacy didn't work for anyone - not consumers, doctors, insurers, or manufacturers. So, he set off to make it better.
 
It is no secret that going to the pharmacy is painful. Customers can wait on average an hour or more, almost half the time the pharmacy is out of stock, and there are unexpected costs. Add the embarrassing interactions with staff without a private place to discuss your medications with a pharmacist. Customers go to the pharmacy once a month but take medication every day. It is the most frequent healthcare experience and if it is fundamentally improved then the entire system will benefit.

Capsule has been set up to be faster, kinder and smarter. It is a better pharmacy underpinned by modern technology. Here is how it works: when you visit your doctor, she or he can send your prescription to Capsule instead of your local pharmacy. Through the mobile app, users can monitor prescriptions, check pricing and insurance information, track deliveries and live chat with a pharmacist at any time. 

Not only is this great for the customer but it makes business sense. Capsule removes the aisles of sweets, fizzy drinks and greeting cards and focuses on prescriptions. They swap expensive retail rent for delivery, and they're building the first brand to engender emotions in the space and to retain customers and drive better health outcomes.
 
Currently there is no way for a doctor to know in real time if the medication they have prescribed is actually helping the patient. Capsule provides real-time feedback to the doctors based on the information the consumer adds back through the app. As the business grows and there is greater consumer adoption, Capsule will be able to improve the efficacy of medication. In a world where the most important metric should be outcomes, this is a game-changer.

At 66, I spend a lot of my time on my health and wellness and it has become an important focus in my life and my business. It is also a key area of focus at Virgin Group. Our Virgin Pulse business is incentivising healthy behaviour through employers in the US and countries around the world. Our health club business Virgin Active and our newly launched fitness festival business Virgin Sport will hopefully keep people fit and out of the doctor’s office as much as possible.
 
Virgin Care is focused on improving the quality of primary care in the UK. We also have made an investment in Doctor on Demand, a leading tele-health start up allowing patients and their doctors to connect by video, which reduces the burden on healthcare facilities and brings more convenience to both patients and doctors.

Capsule is a wonderful addition to our portfolio and has the hallmarks of all successful Virgin companies – tackling the consumer experience from the ground up to drive better outcomes across the industry. It has built a great brand that is trying to humanise the pharmacy experience. While it is only available in New York now, it will be looking to expand across the US and beyond soon. Best of luck to Eric and the team.

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