How Digital Pharmacist is bringing mobile to mom & pop pharma shops

by Kelly O'Halloran
July 21, 2017
Digital Pharmacist
Photos by Hannah Koehler. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

For patients of big box pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS, refilling a prescription usually is pretty simple. Load the app. Select "refill." Pick it up.

But what about patients who visit smaller pharmacies? Many independent pharmacies lack the web and marketing capabilities to take the refill process online. That’s where Digital Pharmacist steps in.

The Austin startup has made two key acquisitions since the start of 2017 to offer a full suite of digital solutions and communication tools specifically for mom and pop pharmacies. We caught up with four team members to learn how Digital Pharmacist's products impact the lives of more than four million patients.

 

digital pharmacist

 

DIGITAL PHARMACIST AT A GLANCE

FOUNDED: 2012

EMPLOYEES: 53 (Austin); 22 (Newark).

WHAT THEY DO: Provide digital communication tools and platforms for pharmacies to connect more efficiently with patients.

WHO THEY DO IT FOR: 6,000 pharmacies, national pharmacy wholesalers, hospital systems and pharma brands supporting more than four million patients.

WHERE THEY DO IT: Guadalupe Street in Hyde Park.

ONE DOG PER DAY: Employees share a calendar to schedule who will be bringing their dog to work that day.

CLEAN LIVING: Bathrooms include employee showers.

PERKS & PARKING: Breakfast taco Tuesdays, weekly catered lunch, maternity room, Orangetheory Fitness classes, easy parking.

 

Digital Pharmacist

 

How has Digital Pharmacist’s product evolved?

Anyssa Garza, VP, content and patient education programs: We started more as a content platform for the masses, where I would write about medications and health news. Our content would then be syndicated to pharmacy apps and social media so their patients could learn things like “how to stay healthy in the fall.”

We even had an “Ask a Pharmacist” section, where people from all over the world could reach out. We’ve since tabled that to help independent pharmacies compete with the big box brands like CVS and Walmart by offering online resources and automation tools.

Benjamin Hagen, head of sales: We’re serving the hardworking mom and pop pharmacies that have been around for a very long time. Many pharmacists struggle with managing their digital marketing presence or reaching out to patients online. They are the experts of their field — not experts of mobile app and website development. We step in, and we give them a full branded platform to operate out of.

 

Digital Pharmacist

 

Daniel, your team works hand-in-hand with the pharmacies. About how long does it take to fire up a new client?

Daniel Sanchez, digital marketing team lead: If we’re starting with an independent pharmacy that recently opened and doesn’t have an established brand yet, it will take about a month, month and a half, to get fully activated. If the pharmacy already has a website and digital presence, they’ll give us the go ahead and we’ll hit the ground running from that moment.

Hagen: Most of the pharmacies we work with do have a website or mobile app. But what we’re doing is shifting them out of thinking that these are just items to ‘check off.’ Having these resources and digital tools can advance their brands. Many of the tools that they use before we step in are inconvenient for patients and not branded to the pharmacy. We offer a branded, unique personal experience for the pharmacy and its patients.

 

Digital Pharmacist

 

How has your product impacted a pharmacist’s day to day?

Hagen: One company was able to boost patient refills by 33 percent within three to four months of partnering with us. They implemented our interactive voice response product that handles 65 percent of incoming phone calls, freeing up the pharmacists to handle in-person business.

Garza: We know patients are going digital, so we are providing pharmacies with a platform to meet their patients where they are. We’re saving pharmacists time, and we’re helping them better engage with patients through social media, weekly newsletters and website and app updates.

So by helping the pharmacies you’re actually helping the patients. That’s gotta be pretty satisfying, right?

Hagen: It’s a very satisfying place to work. When you see what you’re doing for store owners, it makes you feel good about what you do. Some sales roles make no difference on the lives of other people. But in this one, you’re helping small business owners and you’re helping the patients of these small pharmacies. It’s personal gain, meets professional gain, meets humanitarian gain. 

Sanchez: I come into work and am excited to see everyone. I know that’s rare because I’ve worked in previous offices where that hasn’t been the case. We’re surrounded by people who understand that what we’re doing keeps communities happy and healthy. We’re actually helping patients, and we ourselves are all patients. That gives us a bit of excitement every day. 

 

3

 

At the end of January, your company merged with Newark-based TeleManager. What’s that been like?

Katie Smith, HR manager: TeleManager is a fascinating company. They invented the invoice response system. So when you call your bank, and you get the computer telling you to press one or two for various needs — that’s what they invented. It’s patented and now we own that patent. The people who created it are still with the company and have tailored it to the pharmaceutical industry and to be HIPPA compliant. In the marketplace, that’s very powerful.

Garza: It’s allowed us to offer better connectivity to pharmacy management systems. Prior to the merger, the refill process would go through fax. Now it integrates directly to their systems.

How has the team handled the changes with the acquisitions of TeleManager and PocketRX?

Smith: I’m really proud of how well the employees have adapted. It’s hard for employees to take on changes in leadership, an updated office space and changes in responsibilities and expectations. But they’ve done it, and I think it speaks volumes to the people here and who we hire.  

Sanchez: When Chris Loughlin came on as CEO a year and a half ago, he had a very clear vision for the company and culture. He wanted an environment where we are encouraged to speak up to our team and to him directly. With the changes, communication has been very transparent from all levels up and down the chain of command. No one ever feels like we’re in the dark, and if we have any questions on processes, or if we have suggestions, those are all taken into account and welcomed by leadership.

 

digital pharm daniel.jpg

 

What’s the culture like today?

Hagen: The culture is very unique because there are many different walks of life here. Our CEO took Travelzoo public. Our number one salesman used to be an eye doctor. My background is in physical therapy. We have people fresh out of college and we have people with 12 years of sales experience. It’s a random mix of people, and it all works.

Smith: We really embrace the healthy work-life balance. No one really works from home or on the weekends or is checking in on one-off emails. Our people are nice and caring and not after one another. It’s a great feeling.

When bringing on new teammates, what do you look for?

Smith: People who can speak eloquently about their past experiences and what they want in the future. Where they went to school isn’t as important to me as how you studied our company and product and if you understand where Digital Pharmacist is looking to go. Lastly, I look for passion.  

Hagen: Someone who asks me questions during our interview. Those who do best in my interviews are the ones who realized they are interviewing me, too. On my team specifically, we look for some type of former career advancement. Regardless of what role or where you worked before, this shows that you’re hungry to improve.

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