Verizon Wireless debuts cost-conscious pharmacy app

Verizon Wireless is taking a big step into the mHealth market, and it's a bit of an unusual one. Partnering with its own pharmacy benefits vendor, Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based Medco Health Solutions, the telecom giant just debuted the Medco Pharmacy mobile app for smartphones.

Taking a slightly different tack from many of the existing pharma apps out there, the Medco app focuses on drug costs. It provides the ubiquitous medication reminders, drug interaction warnings and meds lists, but also tells patients what their out-of-pocket costs will be for prescription drugs, and identifies the lowest-cost drugs available to fill a script, Mike Ross, Verizon Wireless's vice president of healthcare sales, tells FierceMobileHealthcare. The app also alerts patients to any meds that require prior authorization under their prescription plans.

"Anytime you can put money back into people's pockets, and improve their quality of care, you're hitting a home run," Ross says.

One of the development challenges for the app was designing a simple interface for a relatively complex task--checking prescriptions. The company wanted to "keep it simple so you don't have to click through four or five windows [to get to the primary functions]. It's a very streamlined, straightforward user experience," Ross says. "The goal here is to get apps simpler, more streamlined and [require] fewer keystrokes--making it that much easier to use."

Verizon Wireless already is internally marketing the app to its employees, who use the Medco Pharmacy service, and will roll out external marketing soon to its 100 million customers, according to Ross. For its part, Medco has a 65-million-member customer base to whom it will be peddling the app, as well. Verizon Wireless is a behind-the-scenes partner, primarily acting as the delivery channel for the app, with Medco handling development, sales and customer service.

The company has put the app up in its VCast app store. It is available for use on Android and Blackberry phones, but isn't yet enabled for iPhones. Medco officials indicate it should be soon.

Interesting aside: Ross revealed that Verizon Wireless' main mHealth push, going forward, will be in the home care environment. One particular focus is remote patient monitoring, where the company currently is focusing much of its attention, Ross says. The telecom giant partnered with monitoring vendor HealthSense just a few weeks ago, although it's unclear if they'll be the only player on the field as the telecom giant continues its march into the mHealth market.

To learn more:
- read the Verizon Wireless press release