The last few years have been quite a roller coaster – between COVID-19 and so many world issues it is safe to say that our mental health has taken a huge toll. The statistics are astounding!
It is no secret that humans have taken it upon themselves to put their health and wellness first. But we all know how complicated our health system can be, which can be incredibly daunting especially for non-threatening health issues.
So imagine being able to easily go online and get discounted erectile dysfunction, female libido, acne, PrEP and more delivered to your door at wholesale prices. Imagine being able to access free mental health care in the form of talk therapy.
In comes HealCoRx, an online pharmacy and wellness collective. A start-up company based in Jersey City. I recently went to meet the team at their downtown office to hear more about their organization.
What are your names and what do you guys do?
Kirat: My name is Kirat Kharode, I’m the founder and CEO of HealCo, the parent company of HealCoRx.
Mara: My name is Mara Andrade and I’m Director of Customer Service.
Taylor: I’m Taylor Puleri, I’m the Chief Marketing Officer.
Tell me about the company.
Kirat: HealCo is an all-you-can-access healthcare marketplace, and we recently launched HealCoRx. For our customers, our goal is to create limitless health care access so you don’t have to worry about insurance or high-cost prescriptions. We also offer complimentary health care through a free call with a licensed psychologist. But we don’t stop there. With our network of offices, we have over 3,000 mental health professionals working with us to deliver care to those who need it.. Many of the things on the mental health axis, like sexual health and LGBTQ+ health, have been stigmatized by traditional hospital-centric systems over the years. We’re here to change that.
With COVID, the long-term effects of what will happen are still being determined. A bright spot of COVID is that the regulatory issues that really prevented healthcare access from becoming more available through telemedicine have become widely open. Now through things like asynchronous telemedicine, which is basically a provider being able to communicate with patients without being right next to them, gives our customers the ability to request a prescription through an online questionnaire in less than 10 minutes. Our virtual health team reviews that information and can prescribe medication to get delivered to a patient’s home. You can come to us and get that experience.
So tell me from the end user experience, how do people get started?
Taylor: We offer free and discreet door-to-door delivery on discounted prescriptions filled by a local pharmacist – and soon, customers will be able to communicate with physicians, therapists, and pharmacists all through an online chat feature. So even though the visit is not happening in real-time, patients can get answers to questions on prescriptions or the way that they’re feeling. We offer health and wellness content, complimentary mental health care through a 15-minute talk therapy navigation call that offers additional resources and a treatment plan for mental health. Since we are so hyper-focused in New Jersey and New York, where other online pharmacies and wellness collectives are more removed, we have the ability for these people to also go in-person to one of our providers if they deem that it’s necessary for their visit.
Kirat: Prospective patients go to HealCoRx.com and select a treatment – currently we’re offering medications for ED, Scream Cream (which is female libido cream), topical cream for acne, PrEP for HIV prevention, and by next week, Medicinal Cannabis licenses for patients in New Jersey. We will soon be adding more medications and care coordination services, geared towards those with chronic conditions and customers in need of help just keeping their medications and dosages straight. For those who aren’t fortunate enough to have family or friends who are physicians, HealCoRx is like the doctor in their family.
So they don’t necessarily need to go through a doctor or provider to get a prescription.
Kirat: They wouldn’t have to speak to a physician unless they want to. Customers simply input their information and the physician prescribes the best medication for the patient, if clinically needed. The awkwardness or shame of sitting there in a waiting room for 45 minutes only for a 2 minute face-to-face encounter with a doctor is completely eliminated. These are everyday issues that can help people’s lives be a bit easier and enjoyable. It’s really a marketplace where we’re making connections to get better access to care. To open up access to everyone as easily as we can make it. From your phone, from your home computer, in the office if you need it.
You have a long history of experience in the healthcare field (formerly having held Senior executive roles at both Jersey City Medical Center and later at CarePoint Health), especially in Jersey City. When did you come up with this idea and why?
Kirat: I’d love to have one of those startup moments where I’m like, “This happened!” But really, it was like trying over and over again to launch innovative solutions, including in Jersey City. In 2013, I was trying to launch telemedicine at a local hospital. The pushback was ridiculous in terms of, “If this works, then we’re not going to be able to have more traffic to our ER.” I was like, wouldn’t that be a good thing?
Hospitals aren’t wired for innovation or keeping people healthy, despite what their ads may tell you. Creating something that’s truly population health-oriented is always stymied by the economics of “we need to fill heads in beds”, and we need to be more “inpatient-focused.” In 2019, we were starting HealCo at a point where we dreamt of a hybrid health system, where you can have brick-and-mortar and telemedicine merge (“click and mortar”). Then, all of a sudden the pandemic happened, and we accelerated ten years in what we could potentially do beyond just matchmaking doctors and patients in physical spaces, but also this digital space that we’ve created to integrate auxiliary providers, like mental health therapists and pharmacists, into the customer’s care journey. We’re truly building a Health System Without Walls™.
Other than sexual health and mental health, is there anything else you guys help with?
Kirat: Our virtual chat feature allows patients to text with doctors or pharmacists and ask them questions – and data shows that most people’s most trusting relationship is actually with their pharmacists. The ability to ask a local pharmacist, physician, or OB/GYN a question can be difficult for people without access to a day off or childcare in the traditional health system.
Do you guys accept any type of medical questions?
Kirat: Any type of medical questions that come up related to internal medicine, obstetrics, and pharmaceuticals. Pharmacy services are a huge benefit to our customers but also to our physician-partners in the area. Sixty percent of adults are prescribed some sort of medication in the United States, and the data shows that almost 200,000 people die of medication-related deaths. We also know that almost 15% of those prescribed don’t fill their medications for some reason. Assisting physicians in the community in taking care of these patients is a core value of ours.
How do you guys work with people who don’t have insurance?
Kirat: We don’t accept insurance currently, and in many ways, we feel that they’re a part of the problem. That said, we don’t want to leave anyone behind, so we are working on a few population health initiatives that may align us with payers in the future. Our market opportunity is huge because the traditional health system is so fractured and focused on surgery and intensive care. Everything that really is a human problem and deals with day-to-day life gets overlooked. That’s why our goal is to be customer-centric and make HealCoRx the lowest cost health and wellness alternative out there, even if we would get paid more by an insurer.
So how do people pay for these services?
Kirat: We accepts credit cards and soon cryptocurrency, as well. Our therapeutics are significantly discounted compared to average prices. We’re democratizing not only from the convenience aspect, but also the idea that drugs like this shouldn’t be astronomically priced because the middleman is squeezing ridiculous margins. The reason most therapists don’t take insurance is because they get paid less than their services are worth. Why would a psychologist take insurance when they’re gouged like that? How do you make a living when you’re paid like that? They say 50% of patients don’t access the system even when they have insurance, and it’s because it’s so confusing. We waive the cost of the physician visit completely – it’s free connect with a physician through our platform.
Is it affordable for patients in underserved communities?
Kirat: Customers can buy generic brands at wholesale prices, and we discount their prescriptions even further by offering first time customers 20% off. We also have QR codes in all of our partner physician offices where they could tell a patient, “If you need something, click on the QR code” and they come to us.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
You can also visit our website to learn more: www.HealCoRx.com