Healthcare Paperwork

Over the last few months I’ve received intermittent updates about e-prescription startup ZappRx. Each one has hinted at the prospect of the official launch of its service that uses mobile devices to fill everyday medical prescriptions. The last time I checked in, the small Cambridge-based company had raised $1 million in seed funding from Atlas Ventures, with the promise of more details to emerge about the actual program launch.

That was over four months ago, and today the company is announcing an additional $1 million investment, once again from Atlas, as well as participation from SR One — the investment arm of GlaxoSmithKline.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that ZappRx, as a platform, has yet to officially launch a trial. When it was first announced, the idea was to create a platform that streamlines prescription-getting. A doctor would use the mobile app to input the prescription and patients could then go to the pharmacy of their choice to pick it up. This mobile structure take away the headaches and paper-confusion one usually encounters when coordinating between a doctor’s receptionist and Walgreens. You know, when you call a pharmacy, they say to come in an hour, and when you do so it’s not ready nor do they have a record of your original call.

Now the company is telling a slightly different story. According to ZappRx’s founder and CEO Zoe Barry, the company has a new prescription focus. “We went to launch, and realized in conversations with top doctors that those who need [this kind of platform] most are those with specialty conditions,” she said.

Specialty conditions are certain diseases that require very specific and stringent pharmaceutical regimens. They include hepatitis, hemophilia, pulmonary hypertension, and HIV.

According to Barry, people with these types of diseases represent about 2 percent of the population, but the amount of regular care they require is massive. The paperwork for obtaining these prescriptions is lengthy and require resubmission each month. Additionally, the prescriptions cost each patient upwards of thousands of dollars, and if the process of getting them filled is bottlenecked the patient’s life could be jeopardized.

Barry put it mildly when she explained specialty prescriptions as a “very cumbersome, administratively process.”

So now we have a slightly new, or more refined business plan for what ZappRx is doing. It launched a very small beta program in New York and Boston over the last few months, which has led to this funding and business re-modeling. But now the real question is: when will it actually, officially launch?

Barry says soon, and that a lot of updates are in the pipeline. She’s been working on the backend platform, seeking out partners, and we will hopefully hear more in this regard in the very near future. We’ll just have to wait and see what these updates will be.

My hope is that it’s an official launch, and not more of this dillydallying.