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Rebuilding the pharmacy from shop to digital: Interview (Includes interview and first-hand account)

CaryRx provides a free same-day prescription delivery, within one-hour, to key locations in the U.S. including DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Each item stocked can be ordered via a mobile app. CaryRx’s founders have backgrounds in both pharmacy and technology.

This new approach to pharmacies avoids waiting in line; avoids the likelihood of out-of-stocks; and ensures a competitive price. Interestingly this model is operating ahead of Amazon’s possible moves into the pharmacy market.

To find out more about the service, Digital Journal spoke with Areo Nazari, a co-founder of CaryRx.

Carry Rx mobile online pharmacy app

Carry Rx mobile online pharmacy app

Digital Journal: Thanks for the interview. What are the main challenges facing healthcare today?

Areo Nazari: We believe the issue is twofold — it includes a combination of managing costs for both the industry and patients, as well as pushing innovation within regulatory framework.

Within pharmacy specifically, managing the overall costs of medications is largely in the hands of pharmacy benefits managers (PBM), who often have full autonomy in dictating costs to both pharmacies and patients.

Innovation in healthcare is not always easy. Finding a better process while staying in compliance with regulatory framework creates a significant hardship. Also, one of the biggest challenges to any innovative company is maintaining a competitive edge while operating within the scope of insurance barriers.

DJ: What are the main issues posed by consumers and patients?

Nazari: Patients typically are curious about the delivery logistics and safety of data in our systems. To address package safety, packages are all sealed with tamper evident tape by our pharmacists before leaving the pharmacy. Delivery drivers never see the contents of the packages.

As far as data and credit cards, we actually do not have direct access to our patients credit card information. It is all securely stored by a PCI certified service provider level 1, which is the most stringent level of security available in the industry. Our data is equally secure and encrypted to HIPAA compliance standards.

Alternative view of the CarryRx app in action

Alternative view of the CarryRx app in action

DJ: What are the advantages of obtaining prescriptions with the aid of digital technology?

Nazari: Imagine visiting your doctor and having your prescription delivered to you the moment you get home. That is a reality with our service, as our entire backend infrastructure is vertically integrated, all the way down to our automated delivery logistics.

We have delivered prescriptions to patients in under 20 minutes, and that is from the moment we received the prescription from the doctor to the moment the package is being handed to the patient. It’s truly amazing that we can utilize technology in an impactful way, especially in the pharmacy industry, to make this the new norm.

DJ: What were the main challenges when setting CaryRx up?

Nazari: Like most innovative healthcare concepts, changing behavior has been one of our main challenges. Like Uber in its early days, it takes a degree of consumer education to bring awareness of our service. Because we are the first service of our kind in the region, many patients simply do not realize it is possible to receive a prescription delivery in this manner.

As a result, we have seen our service be extremely sticky, once patients switch to our pharmacy, they are extremely unlikely to leave. In fact, we have seen a huge influx of prescriptions transferred in from traditional pharmacies while very few have been transferred out.

DJ: How have you addressed data security concerns?

Nazari: HIPAA has been at the forefront of everything we do. Patient security and confidentiality is built in our systems, our network, and our app. We use encrypted password protection and all of our patient platforms are within HIPAA regulations.

DJ: What has the take up been like? Is CaryRx appealing to a certain demographic or geographical area?

Nazari: We soft launched in late July and the response has been terrific to date. We have customers in all age groups across Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. We are very excited to have seen a great response in patients that are 65+ as well. In today’s world, people expect to have all essential services available at their fingertips.

DJ: What is your marketing strategy?

Nazari:We are using an array of marketing tactics, however, social media advertising has been our primary focus to help spread the word. Our best advertising, however, continues to be word of mouth and positive feedback being shared within the medical and patient community.

DJ: Do you see Amazon’s potential move into online pharmacy services as a threat?

Nazari:We actually see it as an opportunity, as there has been a massive amount of consolidation in both pharmacy chains and pharmacy benefit managers. There is a need to disrupt the industry at a high level and Amazon has the scale and leverage needed to execute. In addition, if they were to enter the industry, we believe their primary focus would be to build a viable PBM business and secondarily a mail order pharmacy.

We also believe their prime motivation is internal cost savings, as they employ over 500,000 employees. Becoming a PBM would immediately position them to save hundreds of millions annually.

DJ: What other types of healthcare technology do you see as influencing the sector in the future?

Nazari: Blockchain has a valuable role to play in healthcare and will continue to play a role in further securing HIPAA data. This could play an important role in electronic prescribing and controlled substance monitoring. Telehealth also has the opportunity to continue to grow as it becomes a more accepted method of healthcare delivery. The key advantage is the ability to provide healthcare to those in underserved areas or low accessibility.

CaryRx’s co-founders are Dr. Areo Nazari and Kevin Lance.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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