Can A Drug-Dealing Robot Increase Direct Care Value?

Can A Drug-Dealing Robot Increase Direct Care Value?

Wired reports on a disruptive technology entering the healthcare market. PillPack, a startup pharmacy, hopes to overthrow the archaic process of picking up prescriptions. They’re charging $20 a month to enroll. PillPack will then deliver “drugs” directly to your doorstep. With the help of robots, all of your meds are organized into “dose packets,” which are small, well-designed plastic baggies. They’re even marked with the date and time they’re supposed to be taken.

PillPack uses robots to pack the pills. That way the pharmacy staff can actually talk with customers. That’s a trait we can relate to in our work in direct care — the power of speaking to a real human being.

As is customary, the red tape has constricted PillPack to only 31 states. Currently, they accept most major insurance plans. We emailed them to find out how they would handle patients without insurance, or whose plans don’t include Rx coverage. We’re curious to see how their wholesale rates hold up. We’re currently dispensing out of our offices here at Atlas MD. Things are going smoothly for us. However, we have to be realistic: some startups might not have the wherewithal or the capital to get pill dispensing up and running out the gate. Perhaps a service like PillPack could be a mediator to new direct care doc’s value proposition.

WIRED admits that PillPack will be a surefire hit during upcoming design award shows, but wonders “if anyone will use it.” There are the cool dose packets, and the service saves patients from potentially unpleasant retail pharmacy experiences. But here are some crazy facts mentioned in the article: Nearly 25% of heart attack sufferers never go to the pharmacy to get their prescriptions. And wasted medications cost our country more than $290 million a year.

So will PillPack, hailed by Wired as “modern sensibility and… Amazon-esqe efficiency” curb our willful disregard for medication? As direct care gains more passion and more momentum, could PillPack become a wholesale provider of Rx for direct care patients? Maybe it’s too much of a good thing. But assuming PillPack can provide competitive wholesale Rx prices, maybe the next wave of direct care physicians can direct their energy towards getting patients to TAKE THEIR MEDS. Personalities vary, of course, but isn’t there something powerful in a doctor who has the time to text a patient to ask if they’re maintaining their Rx schedule?