Three emerging trends in consumer digital mail-order health products

Now consumers are turning the web for their health products—whether it is to get a pharmacy prescription, a urine test or an “embarrassing” sexual health product.
By Laura Lovett
02:24 pm
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Within the last decade, shopping for groceries, clothes and books has become a lot more virtual. The digital space is rapidly replacing brick and mortar stores for many customers. Now consumers are turning to the web for their health products—whether it is to get a pharmacy prescription, a urine test or an “embarrassing” sexual health product. Read on for three emerging trends in the digital mail-order health space. 

Mail-order pharmacies

The mail-order pharmacy model has been around for quite some time, but the services made headlines last year when retail giant Amazon bought Pillpack, which delivers medications in pre-sorted dose packaging, coordinates refills and renewals, and ensures that shipments are sent on time. At the time publications were reporting that Amazon paid just under $1 billion for the startup. The company is still continuing its services now under the Amazon brand. 

But Pillpack isn't the only online pharmacy in the market. Capsule, a New York City-based startup, has carved out its spot in the field with its hand delivery system. The way it works is once a doctor prescribes the medication, the patient will get a text from Capsule enabling them to schedule delivery. Capsule promises to deliver the medication to anyone in New York City within two hours of the interaction. The platform also lets patients transfer their refills from their old pharmacies to Capsule. Recently, the company landed a whopping $50 million in Series B funding.

Also coming into the space is NowRx, an online pharmacy specializing in same-day, same-hour prescription deliveries. In October, the company announced a $7 million Series A raise. 

Sexual health

Sexual and reproductive health products are rapidly growing in the direct to consumer space. Two of the major players in the space are Hims and Ro. Both originally started out targeting male customers living with erectile dysfunction, male pattern baldness and other related conditions but have since expanded. 

The models are similar in that both companies use telemedicine to prescribe customers cosmetic and sexual health products. 

Hims, in addition to ED medication, also specializes in skin health. Most recently, the company launched Hers, a female-focused online order and delivery service. Also using the telehealth model, Hers offers generic birth control pills and the controversial sex drive treatment flibanserin, as well as skin care products. In January, Hims closed a $100 million funding round. 

Ro is also expanding beyond just male health. However, this company’s approach is a bit different. In September the startup announced that it is going to work on an addiction cessation platform, which will be called Zero. The platform will integrate a prescription, nicotine replacement therapy and behavioral app. 

Recently, Hims and Ro have come under fire after a New York Times article examined the company’s prescribing practices. The article points out that the clients come to the platforms with a “self-diagnosis” and don’t need to see a doctor in person. 

But Ro and Hims aren't the only companies working in this space. Pill Club, a company that provides telemedicine and mail-order pharmacy services to help women access birth control, has also come onto the scene. 

Additionally, Chelsea Clinton-backed startup Nurx recently landed $36 million for its telemedicine platform that connects rural patients to contraceptives. 

Meanwhile, Blume is a mail-order platform focused on creating sustainable period products and educational tools. In fact, just a few days ago, the company announced a $3.3 million Series Seed funding round. The company pitches its products as safer for the environment and for women.

Mail-order test kits

The market has also seen a rise in mail-in test kits for consumers. At-home urine tests have become particularly popular. In September inui Health landed FDA clearances for its smartphone-enabled home urine testing platform that can conduct five common tests, with more to come. 

Israeli startup Healthy.io has also emerged as one of the main players with its signature product dip.io, a home-based urinalysis kit that turns a smartphone into a clinical-grade diagnostic device. The kit includes a disposable test strip and testing cups. 

In the blood testing space, smartphone blood lab startup 1Drop Diagnostics' main product is a diagnostic panel housed on a biochip that is able to deliver a test result within 15 minutes from a single drop of blood. 

EverlyWell has also come onto the market with a digital platform that lets consumers order lab tests online, and gives users a place to provide samples and receive results online. 

It is also worth noting that consumer genomics have become a major force in the mail-order space. Companies like 23andMe and Helix have continued to grow and become a common item in major retail stores. 

Consumerization of Healthcare

In April, we'll look at the consumerization of healthcare from a variety of angles, including how to treat patients as customers.

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