Want to never wait in line at the pharmacy again? There’s an app for that.
Capsule, a digital-only pharmacy, launched last month in New York City. Through the company’s smartphone app, you can manage prescriptions from your doctor and have them delivered to your door via a messenger for free. You can also connect with a pharmacist via text or phone with any questions.
Sonia Patel, a pharmacist who previously worked for Walmart, Kroger and Sam’s Club, and investor Eric Kinariwala co-founded Capsule, which serves all five boroughs and has plans to expand.
amNewYork spoke with Patel about her new healthcare venture, and how she stays healthy herself.
What were the biggest things you wanted to fix about the pharmacy industry, and how does Capsule fix them?
There are a couple of big things that resonate with retail pharmacy. One of the first things a lot of people experience with pharmacies is out-of-stock medications. Capsule helps to fix that problem by using technology to create a dynamic inventory platform. It’s at one location, which allows us to keep all of our inventory in one place, rather than replicate it on every block in New York City — it’s more efficient, and helps eliminate a lot of out of stock that retailers experience. There’s also smart refilling — knowing when and where you need to refill your medications. And we treat each person like a unique individual, versus a number or a bar code. We know that someone who needs birth control filled every month has different needs than a diabetic who needs refrigerated medication delivered in a time-sensitive manner. We work with each person to provide a really effortless experience end to end.
How has Capsule grown since launching?
As the volume comes in, we’re increasing our pharmacy staff day by day. ... We continue to have more customers every week. We’re just really looking to hone in on the New York City market and service as many people as we possibly can.
How might you reach less tech-savvy customers?
Capsule is built in a way to help anyone. People that are tech-savvy, it’s great if you can download the app and use an iPhone. There are plenty of people who don’t know how to send a text message. Our channels allow you to connect with a pharmacist via chat, the internet or even by phone. It’s not absolutely necessary that someone is tech-savvy to be able to use Capsule. Our pharmacists are there to help walk anyone through any process, whether it’s placing an order or getting information on medication. It’s as easy as a phone call.
How did you end up launching in New York City?
Eric and I connected here. I know the laws very well. It seemed like a natural fit to start in New York City. That, along with the density of the population — the fact that there is a pharmacy on every street corner, it seemed like the perfect place to solve this problem.
How do you plan to spread the word about Capsule?
Pharmacy is kind of an organic thing. Most people don’t go to the pharmacy every single day. It’s really important for us to keep Capsule at the top of mind for people. We have partnerships with a lot of physicians. We believe it’s really important to work with physicians — we can get an idea of what their needs are and get them excited about Capsule.
Is that what you’ve seen so far from physicians?
We find a lot of physicians have been waiting for something like this for a while. Pharmacy is a very antiquated industry. I think it’s about time that something like this came along, to get physicians and patients and pharmacists and everyone really excited about what’s going on in the space.
How did you get drawn into pharmacy in the first place?
Well, my family is actually all pharmacists. My dad is a pharmacist, lots of cousins, a couple of aunts and uncles. And that’s just my close extended family — I can probably name many, many more. It’s kind of in our blood. It’s just something that my family feels very passionate about, and has been successful in. We love doing it. No one in my family has actually been able to open up their own pharmacy, which is really exciting about Capsule. I’m the first one in my family to do that.
What is your fitness regimen like?
We’re pretty fortunate that we live in the Chelsea area. We’re pretty close to Flatiron, this area has been coined the Fitness District. I go to classes in that area. It’s really important for me to get in a really good workout in the morning. There’s usually not much time to do that, but it’s super important for me to stay strong. Pharmacists stand all day — if you don’t have the physical form to keep going, that gets pretty tiring. I go to FlyBarre at Flywheel, and Barry’s Bootcamp on the days I’m feeling a little extra strong. I do Pilates classes as well.
Do you have a particular diet too for staying healthy?
My diet consists of everything — I’m not restricted. My husband and I do eat a pretty strong diet of fish a few times a week. We eat sushi quite a bit. He was born in Japan, which is where our wedding was. He and I are both very into Japanese food and sushi. We’re also really big fans of trying to cook at home on the weekdays as much as we can. We’re not big into ordering takeout every night. It’s our bonding time in the evening, no matter how late it gets. It keeps us healthy and happy.
Do you have any other healthy spots in the city?
I love to go to the parks, any park my husband and I can get to on a weekend. I’m really outdoorsy. When I’m in the pharmacy, I’m inside all day. I like to get out on the weekends.
You also have a big interest in cosmetology? How does that come into play?
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with beauty products. As I got older, that turned more into focusing on what’s in the beauty products we’re using. I’m into the pharmaceutical aspect of beauty products. I like to dissect what’s on top of the label and really try to figure out if the bottle says it’s paraben-free, is it paraben-free.
What products do you like?
There’s a couple brands that I use religiously that I recommend. I love Origins — the products are really natural, I’d had great results with a lot of them. And SkinCeuticals — they have this vitamin C serum that I absolutely love. I don’t know what my face would look like if I didn’t use it every day.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified a skin care company as Skinceutical; the correct name of the company is SkinCeuticals.