My Healthcare Experience Sucks

Here are some companies trying to change that

Waiting for a doctor. Filling up a prescription. Paying medical bills.

For a long time, consumers have had crappy experiences with getting adequate care in this country. Despite transformational changes in software and technology, much of the typical healthcare experience for patients (seeing a doctor, getting medication, paying for care) has been untouched for decades. There are many reasons healthcare has been so hard to fix, from strict regulations and cost of care to the economics of having third-party payers.

And now, consumers are getting used to having magical experiences driven by software, design, and data. We can press a button and have a car come pick us up. We can talk to anyone across the globe instantly at zero cost.

So what can technology do to fix healthcare, especially the patient experience?

Well sometimes, change is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Since this industry is incredibly fragmented and requires a thorough understanding of complex regulations, it’s particularly hard for one company to come in and solve everything right off the bat. Yet, there are some notable startups that have emerged chipping away at different parts of the patient experience. Here they are and what they’re up to:

Finding the right doctor and getting care

Amino is a data-driven company that allows patients to find the best matched physician for them. They analyze millions of bits of clinical data to understand what a fair price for a treatment is and who is best suited to provide you with this information. Price transparency is critical, especially when this industry has been so opaque in the past. As a consumer, it’s easier for me to understand what my house or car should cost than it is for me to have a sense of what a surgery would. And when I’m hit with the bill, it sucks. It’ll be interesting to see Amino pick up because off the bat, it sounds like its solving a critical need for many people.

Filling a prescription

There are a few folks trying to solve customer pain points in the pharma space, but three stand out in particular.

PillPack teamed up with IDEO to redefine what the actual experience of taking medication would look like. The team at PillPack noticed that using pill bottles and pill boxes was quite problematic, especially for the elderly. It was clear that these products were not designed with empathy. They designed clear labelling and packaging, as well as a new ‘pack’ — a more effective way to keep track of the medication you need to take. The real innovation with PillPack is not the well-designed website or mobile app, but the emphasis on the actual experience a patient has with their medication. PillPack is able to serve customers all over the country, with what’s really a fresh take on the mail order pharmacy.

Capsule is a pharmacy that recently launched in NYC with a full-stack, hyper-local approach. What do I mean by that? They’ve completely rebuilt a pharmacy from the ground up, serving patients in their surrounding neighborhood in Manhattan and offering a physical location people can come to. You can use Capsule through the app or website, and they’ll dispatch someone to send you your medication, similar to Postmates or DoorDash. While PillPack offers a national service due to the fact that it ships medication, Capsule is trying a different approach. They are focused on physical locations that can deliver medication within minutes, as well as on-site pharmacists who can build real relationships with their customers. This is important because as I’ve mentioned, customer experience has been overlooked. Capsule sends notes and checks in on their customers, a recent trend with startups the past few years that is a true delight.

While the two previously mentioned pharmacies are trying to build their own venture from the ground up, Blink Health is trying to take advantage of the broken network of pharmacies and drug manufacturers and rework it. Consumers hardly know what their medication costs, and turns out, it can be much cheaper than you expect. However, it’s hard to go to your pharmacy and know that a certain medication costs $5 and tell that to your pharmacists who’s charging $100. Blink uses data to find you the best prices for your medication and you pay with them, instead of at the pharmacy. The pharmacy serves as the primary pickup location instead. The need for price transparency is real, and Blink is bringing that to the average consumer.

Getting Insured

Healthcare is expensive, and until the price comes drastically down, it’s hard for most people to pay out of pocket. Yet, most health insurers today aren’t smart. They lump you into generic demographic buckets, present information in a clunky way, and in general, aren’t helpful.

Oscar is the highly touted health insurer based in NYC, co-founded by Mario Schlosser and Joshua Kushner. Oscar has grown rapidly, both in terms of valuation and presence. With many other insurance platforms, there is a lot of extraneous data presented to you that’s not incredibly necessary or relevant. Oscar is an attempt to strip away things you don’t need, and present you with an easy way to get accessibly healthcare. They’re attempting to make a previously aggravating experience simple and intuitive.

These platforms and services are representative of some of the new ways the typical healthcare experience will radically shift for millions of Americans in the coming years. Just as the Internet has improved our lives in social spheres, productivity, education, logistics, and countless other ways, it will do so in the realm of healthcare.