ZappRx launches beta program to streamline e-prescriptions

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on July 22, 2013

From The News Desk

It happens all too often: you run out of pills for fill-in-your-ailment-here that are only available by prescription. You have to take time off work to schlepp to your doctor's office so she can look you over before writing a new script. After 45 minutes in the waiting room and 10 minutes for the actual appointment you head to the pharmacy, which makes you wait another hour hour. God forbid if there's a mix up or a problem with your insurance. While the prescription process often works, it's when it doesn't that you realize just how inefficient and irritating it is to get your goddamn meds.

ZappRx, a Cambridge-based startup, is launching its beta program today with the hopes of alleviating this. E-prescribing systems are not new; plenty of platforms allow for doctors to fill out prescriptions online and pharmacies to fill them. What ZappRx's CEO Zoe Barry realized, however, is that current e-prescription systems leave the patient out of the process. This is not only a headache, but downright inefficient: "E-prescribing fails up to 40% of the time," she says.

ZappRx, then, is the antidote by allowing patients to access their e-prescriptions and show them to the pharmacies themselves. In Barry's words, "it functions like a boarding pass." Instead of a doctor going online to fill out a prescription for that pharmacy to fill, ZappRx provides a platform that the doctor, pharmacy and patient can access. Patients can show the pharmacy their prescription via their iPhone, pharmacies can access insurance information through the software, and doctors can easily fill prescriptions with it too. Everybody wins.

Patients of two well-regarded New York physicians, Gary Goldman and Richard Cohen, will be test cases for the beta program. Goldman is director of the NY-Presbyterian/Well Cornell Medical Center and Cohen is a specialist in rare diseases who is on the board of overseers at NY-NWC Medical Center. A select subset of their patients will be prescribed all of their medication via the app, and asked to fill prescriptions with select pharmacies taking part.

ZappRx is Barry's brainchild. She worked at AthenaHealth and was a Fellow in Boston’s Startup Leadership Program. She collected $160,000 in funding from friends and family, some of whom were past coworkers.

E-prescription platforms have been around for awhile now. There are startups like Prematics, which was acquired a few years back by NaviNet, that work to connect physicians and pharmacies via smartphones. Recent reports by the US government describe e-prescription programs as an "essential requirement" for meaningful healthcare programs. According to a Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) study, new e-prescribing platforms could save each physician an average savings of 336.7 hours and $15,769 per year, and MarketsandMarkets forecasts the e-prescription market as growing to $794 million by 2017.

What this means is that if there is actual innovation with ZappRx, then Barry has chosen the right market to tap. She believes that ZappRx will be the most efficient US-based program because of the way it integrates patients into the mix. In her eyes this means that patients will more easily access and pre-pay their prescriptions, as well as be able to track their past refills.

This New York program, she hopes, will lead to more widespread availability in the near future. This depends, however, on whether large companies that process pharmaceutical claims see the potential, too. That's a big if, given the shape-shifting status of healthcare coverage today with Obamacare on its way.

I'm skeptical of most things pharmaceutical-related – who isn't? – but if this streamlines the process and saves money en route, I for one would be happy to show Walgreens my newfangled "boarding pass."

Image: Alamy