Digital pharmacy startup PocketPills tracks increased growth amid COVID-19

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PocketPills, a Surrey, British Columbia-based digital pharmacy startup, is tracking increased interest and growth in its service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The startup, which delivers medication from pharmacies directly to patients, has been touting its platform during the pandemic as a way for customers to easily receive prescription medication while social distancing. Since the start of the pandemic, PocketPills claims usage tripled from late February to late March.

“Healthcare has been slow to move online for a variety of reasons, but that’s changing.”

“People wanting the convenience of free home delivery through apps or [the] web is a secular trend that is getting expedited with COVID-19,” Harj Samra, co-founder of PocketPills, told BetaKit. “Healthcare has been slow to move online for a variety of reasons, but that’s changing now and telemedicine, as well as digital pharmacies, are seeing significant tailwinds that are expediting adoption.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a renewed emphasis on telehealth and virtual care. In early May, the federal government committed over $240.5 million to online healthcare, which included mental health tools in addition to primary care.

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A recent survey conducted by Green Shield Canada suggests that there is increasing interest in virtual healthcare services, as the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered consumers from in-person interactions. Out of 500 Green Shield Canada health benefits plan members, 67 percent said they would fill a prescription form from an online pharmacy.

Four months after closing its $7.35 million Series A, PocketPills claims it has grown over 100 percent since the end of 2019 and 500 percent since the same time last year. The company has also more than doubled it’s operational staff in the past three months and plans to hire 100 employees over the course of this year.

“Digital pharmacies are seeing significant tailwinds that are expediting adoption.”

In May, PocketPills also announced plans to move into a new 10,000 square-foot location in the coming months. The startup told BetaKit the space is in the design and construction phase, and it is expected to be completed by August, doubling the size of PocketPill’s current headquarters.

PocketPills has also entered partnerships with insurers and administrators like Green Shield Canada, People Corporation, and Pacific Blue Cross. Over the last two months, the startup has brought on over 100 new insurance plan sponsors, which represents over 100,000 members. To keep up with demand, PocketPills has also started same-day deliveries in Vancouver, Toronto, and Winnipeg.

“Individuals want contactless service from the convenience of their home. Insurers and benefit advisors want digital healthcare solutions that are cost-effective,” Samra told BetaKit. “This is why we are seeing leaders in the space coming together to provide integrated [an] digital healthcare experience.”

The pandemic has also led to increased competition in the digital pharmacy market. Pillway, for example, a startup that uses artificial intelligence to offer a personalized pharmacy experience for patients who take multiple medications a day, recently launched.

Pillway brands itself as more than a pre-sorting and delivery solution, using technology to help patients stay in touch with their doctors and remind users of refills and renewals and receive advice. The company’s service is currently available in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, with plans to roll out nationally.

Image source PocketPills.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Writer, globetrotter, drone pilot & David Attenborough enthusiast