PillPack had a problem. By sending customers a box of all their medications pre-sorted into chronological packets, the IBD-nominated, Ideo-accelerated startup had reinvented the pillbox for the Netflix age. But PillPack didn’t really have a digital component, making it analogous to Netflix without streaming. It also required a leap of faith from customers: you had to switch pharmacies to get any benefit from the service.
So how do you onboard new customers without getting them to switch pharmacies? If you’re PillPack, you stream customers their existing meds in digital form by creating the most fully functional, easy to use, and delightfully designed pillbox app out there. And once people are already tracking their medicines through your service, make it as easy as a tap to switch pharmacies.
Available now for iOS, the PillPack app for iPhone and Apple Watch aims to be the “best medication reminder app on the planet, first and foremost,” says PillPack CEO T.J. Parker. That starts the second you open the app. Where as most medication reminder apps require you to laboriously type in each and one of your medications and set individual reminders for each of them, PillPack automates almost all of this. All you need to add your medicines to the app is your name, gender, and birthday. PillPack then searches pharmacy databases around the country for your meds, and loads them up. According to Parker, no other medication reminder app currently is able to do this, because they don’t have access to the data: you have to be a healthcare provider, or a pharmacy, to do that sort of search.
Once you fill the app with your meds, the user experience is designed to be easy, efficient, and slightly whimsical. A physical PillPack ships as a roll of time-stamped plastic packets filled with pre-sorted pills, so the main screen of the app virtualizes that. When it’s time for you to take your meds the app alerts you on your iPhone or Apple Watch, and you have the option to either skip them, or take them, which rips them off the virtual roll.
Right now, reminders in the PillPack app are delivered according to time, or whether you’re leaving or arriving at a destination, but Parker says Apple Watch integration opens up some new possibilities down the line. “The idea is that we will be able to build in more and more triggers over time to remind you to take your meds based on the sensors on your phone and wrist,” he says. “You can imagine how biometric and activity driven medication reminders start to get really interesting.” Parker says they’ve left the infrastructure of the PillPack app open to make adding such functionality easy once WatchOS 2 ships later this year.
Ultimately, the goal of the app is to let people see what PillPack can do for them without having to sign up first. The app is PillPack’s physical service, digitized. “For some folks it feels like a big leap from ‘cool service’ to ‘please transfer my prescriptions to PillPack’,” Parker says. “Hopefully over time we can build trust with these folks so that eventually they feel comfortable switching their prescriptions to PillPack .” And if not? Parker says: “We’re learning a ton about what it’s like for most people to have to manage medications. It only makes sense that we turn that knowledge into useful products.”