HealthTech Accelerator #8: VendRX Founder shows persistence on idea first conceived in 2006

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in a series spotlighting the companies that are participating in the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” sponsored by CO.LAB, Erlanger Health System and Unum. “Demo Day” is Wednesday. To register, click here.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Trent Jefferies, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of VendRX, might have been pursuing his start-up idea longer than any of the other participants in the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” offered by Chattanooga’s CO.LAB in conjunction with Erlanger Health System and Unum.

He and his sister, the manager of five clinics on the West Coast, first conceived of the idea of a system to allow physicians to directly dispense to their patients in 2006. By 2011 VendRX had its first angel investment, and the company launched its first pilot in January 2017. Today, there are four pilots underway.

“We have an extremely stable, flexible and scalable product,” the thoughtful resident of Salt Lake City says. “We create the pharmacy experience wherever it needs to be.”

That could be the doctor’s office, urgent care clinic, assisted living facility, or an after-hours remote site for a traditional pharmacy. It’s all about patient awareness of cost coupled with convenience.

Jefferies 13-year journey has focused on effectively overcoming a number of challenges, starting with the labor involved in adding drug dispensing services to an already hectic office staff. There was also the matter of security, not to mention providing a way for patients to have access to cost information so they could make an informed decision on dispensing options.

He believes those have all been addressed as society quickly shifts to a consumer-driven model thanks to Amazon and other retail options that did not exist when VendRX launched its efforts.

“We want to create an Amazon experience for prescriptions,” Jefferies says in describing VendRX. “We want to be the Redbox (movie dispenser) for prescriptions.”

The latter probably paints a good picture for you of how VendRX works, but there’s more to the equation.

“One out of three new prescriptions never gets filled,” Jefferies says. That fact certainly involves convenience, but it also could be because of uncertainty about where the lowest cost dispenser can be found. As consumers know, the price of a drug can vary by pharmacy, and there’s the matter of co-pays.

How does a consumer know how much of the cost will be paid by insurance and how much the individual will have to pay? Then, who is providing the lowest cost as judged by convenience of location?

The current hardware that VendRX has deployed provides the prescription within 65 seconds of the patient initially engaging the system. A soon-to-be released version will involve a Redbox-type device that also has the ability to quickly access relevant information about the individual and his/her insurance coverage to quickly provide information ranging from bottom line – the out-of-pocket cost to the individual – as well as lowest price pharmacies or other dispensing providers.

“We are focused on overcoming price sensitivity of patients by enhancing their access to data,” Jefferies says.

For the physician’s office or clinic, the labor issue has been addressed as has security. As such, the VendRX system can help increase revenues for the provider while, at the same time, increasing patient satisfaction and retention.

“We can also play as an extension of a pharmacy in places such as assisted living centers” that might not be staffed as many hours as a traditional pharmacy, Jefferies says. “The value to the pharmacy world will be a great or greater than to physicians.”

VendRX is a portfolio company of Nashville-based Jumpstart Foundry, and that is how Jefferies became aware of the “HealthTech Accelerator.”

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