Can Tech-Driven Pharmacy Capsule Re-Engineer The Digital And Physical Drugstore Experience?

Knowing when and where to personally deliver prescriptions is the cornerstone of Oscar Insurance co-founder Josh Kushner’s Thrive Capital-backed Capsule. But talk and text is the equally important feature of Capsule’s new vision of the friendly neighborhood pharmacist.

Even more than retail, transportation, and banking, healthcare is now experiencing the largest shift in consumer and marketing behavior as a result of mobile technology.

Capsule, which bills itself as a “next-generation pharmacy,” is launching in New York City to challenge the traditional pharmacy model by promising consumers that its “predictive inventory management” will always have a users’ medication in stock right before their refill. “This means fewer frustrating callbacks to doctors and assurance that people are getting the medication they need — not just the most common one,” the company says.

And The Healthcare Oscar Goes To…

That promise extends to eliminating wait time (the average wait is 60 minutes at a regular chain store, Capsule says) and transportation, as Capsule delivers its users medications to them at home or at work. In terms of reinventing the idea of the familiar pharmacist who keeps close tabs of his customers and their doctors, Capsule’s managers also produce “adherence reports,” which is meant to provide insight into what is happening after drugs are prescribed.

In larger sense, Capsule is closing the loop around its investor Thrive Capital’s other health industry disruptor: the app-based Oscar Insurance Corp.

Thrive and Oscar, like Capsule, are based in New York. Josh Kushner serves as managing director of Thrive and co-founder of Oscar (and for tabloid readers, yes, he’s also the son of the real estate magnate Charles Kushner and the brother of Jared Kushner, who, among other things is the publisher of The New York Observer and is married to Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka).

Despite the marquee name behind it, Capsule’s success will depend on how quickly its own leadership can convince consumers that their pharmacy experience should have the same customized digital/physical balance as other parts of their lives. ,

The company is headed by  former Bain Capital analyst Eric Kinariwala, who co-founded Capsule and serves as CEO.

While  Kinariwala, an angel investor in a handful of companies, including Funding Circle, Aviate, Harry’s, and Maple, oversees the business side, Sonia Patel, as chief pharmacist, handles the wellness part. Patel is a Doctor of Pharmacy, and was noted for having been tapped by Walmart to troubleshoot its under-performing pharmacies.

capsule bodyCall it ‘Pre-Demand’

While Oscar sometimes gets called “the Uber of health care” for its mobile-first, immediate response in getting doctors appointments for a specific ailment, Capsule executives reject the idea that it’s another “on-demand” platform, emphasizing that its ability to anticipate its users needs as well as provide one-to-one communication throughout a person’s healthcare experience is what sets it apart.

Furthermore, don’t compare it to early online healthcare service providers like, which is currently owned by Walgreens and had aligned itself with traditional chains since its beginning.

Capsule intends to differentiate itself entirely from the large chains that have expanded their presence on nearly every corner of Manhattan by 1) promising to deliver to four of NYC’s five boroughs initially; and 2) it is strictly focused on medication and wellness — so you won’t be using its couriers to purchase magazines and bodywash.

GeoMarketing: How is Capsule a “next generation pharmacy?” Why doesn’t the traditional pharmacy model not work any more?

Eric Kinariwala: The traditional pharmacy experience consists of long waits, out-of-stock prescriptions and lack of personal care. Capsule is fundamentally rebuilding the pharmacy experience from the inside out with innovative technology and simple design, bringing people an experience unmatched in today’s market.

Capsule is alleviating frustrations like price transparency and lack of privacy, but also trying to fix the pharmacy by changing the foundation that the pharmacy is built on. We’re the only company tackling this problem from end-to-end.

How has Capsule “engineered the physical and digital experience” for how people interact with healthcare? Is it strictly about delivery within the idea of “the uber-ization of everything” in this on-demand economy?

Capsule’s business is not about delivery. This is not an on-demand business. We’re a newer, better, kinder, smarter pharmacy.

Like many companies that have come before us, Capsule is using technology to facilitate better real world experiences. More than half of our team is made up of product and engineering talent — including Foursquare’s former head of mobile engineering, Tim Vetter — who have built the pipes and platform behind Capsule.

With better technology, we’re able to provide better care, helping manage refills and copays with doctors and insurers and making sure medication is there when needed. We work with doctors to provide adherence reports, providing insight into what is happening after medication is prescribed. Additionally, Capsule’s predictive inventory management system means having the correct medications in stock at all times.

Do you work with any of the major pharmacy chains? Do you expect to?

Rather than building a service on top of a pharmacy, Capsule has built a brand new pharmacy from the ground up. We’re on a mission to eliminate the familiar frustrations of pharmacies and provide smarter care than has ever been available.

Is there a typical customer for Capsule? Are you mostly aiming for Millennials?

It is estimated that around half of Americans took medication in the last month and around 70 percent in the last year. Capsule is built to be a better pharmacy for everyone. Anecdotally, we’ve had great feedback from beta testers that are managing health for families or their own chronic illnesses.

Our team designed digital experiences (website and iOS app) to make the pharmacy experience simple for everyone. We are providing free, unlimited access to our team of pharmacists for personalized care through a handful channels, including chat, text, or phone calls.

Do you work with all health care plans? Or are you in the process of establishing those connections?

Capsule accepts almost all major insurance, but we aren’t launching with any formal partnerships. One of the things we’ve discovered about the pharmacy industry is that it doesn’t work for anyone — which includes insurance providers. We’re creating a better pharmacy system for physicians, insurers, employers, and pharmacists.

Is Capsule only in NYC? What’s the plan for a wider rollout?

We’re launching in New York City. We have a centralized pharmacy in downtown Manhattan that facilitates delivery to all of the city (excluding Staten Island for now). Right now we’re focused on NYC, but we believe that Capsule is a better pharmacy for all people and we foresee the model being successful in other urban and more suburban markets.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.