Yes, you can now get your prescriptions delivered: First Uber and Door Dash, then Instacart--prescription delivery could be next, but not before it overcomes key hurdles.

Author:Penrod, Emma
 
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ONCE IN AN IDEALIZED PAST, Americans lived in mail-order houses lined up in pastel rows within walking distance of a Disney-esque main street. Residents knew one another by name, the local butcher had regulars on file, and milk arrived on your doorstep in reusable containers.

Entrepreneur, Cary Breese wants to bring that back--at least in respect to prescription drugs.

Prescription drug delivery was once a common service offered by most every family-owned, corner store pharmacy, Breese says. It's only in the last few decades that American society lost this kind of personalized service to prescription pick-up at massive one-stop supermarkets.

After successfully automating and digitizing other services, Breese found himself looking for his next opportunity and asked--why can't we get the level of customer service and delivery we expect from Amazon, at the pharmacy?

This line of inquiry led Breese to found NowRx, a small but rapidly growing startup in California. But as he and many other founders in the industry have quickly learned, launching an online pharmacy isn't quite the same as starting any old delivery service--explaining why giants such as Amazon have only recently entered the fray.

There are significant regulatory and logistical hurdles unique to the prescription drug industry that must, one way or another, be addressed. And even once these barriers are overcome, the pharmaceutical industry's biggest players are not far behind as to be taken off-guard by this trend. Yet, Breese remains convinced: it is the destiny of the internet to make old things new again.

PRESCRIPTION DELIVERY IS THE FUTURE

On the surface, it may seem like creating an automated pharmacy should follow the path of most any other e-commerce or SaaS startup. But once he started looking more closely at the industry, Breese says, he realized it was going to be a much bigger challenge.

"It's a bigger problem than they just don't deliver," he says. If you just look at a retail pharmacy, for example, "you usually see someone in back counting out pills by hand, someone on the computer or on the phone talking to the insurance or the doctor--just to fulfill the prescription."

Breese wanted to make it possible for customers to order their prescriptions online, and receive them the next day at no additional cost. But to make the traditional process sufficiently efficient, he realized they were going to need to re-engineer the conventional pharmacy from the ground up, while simultaneously letting go of their vision of a fully automated process.

They knew they needed to keep labor costs low, so one of the first steps in launching NowRx was integrating a robotic dispensing system that can sort, cap, and label refills. They also needed to solve the claims processing process, which required two-way communication to verify refills with doctors and payment from insurance companies.

Once that was solved, there was one final barrier: NowRx wanted to bring back the accessible, same-day delivery of decades past...

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