Truepill CEO Umar Afridi and co-founder, Sid Viswanathan, launched Truepill in 2016. (Truepill)

Truepill is a winner of FierceHealthcare's Fierce 15 awards. See our other honorees here.

For Truepill CEO Umar Afridi and co-founder, Sid Viswanathan, the idea to form a company in 2016 came from a desire to make life less stressful for pharmacists. They also wanted to use technology to ease the long lines and fulfillment delays that patients experienced. 

“Sid and I knew the pharmacy industry was ripe for a technological revolution,” Afridi told Fierce Healthcare. “After months of research, and speaking with founders and experts within the healthcare industry, we set out to build Truepill. Our goal was to create a pharmacy infrastructure grounded in technology and automation, to define the future of pharmacy and build the next generation of healthcare.”

The San Mateo, California-based Truepill offers a B2B application program interface that enables pharmacy fulfillment and delivery, white label packaging, and product design. The company is continuing to expand its offerings beyond pharmacy fulfillment and delivery to include telehealth and an at-home lab testing network. For the latter, it secured $75 million in September. It also scored a $25 million Series B funding round in July.

Previously Truepill focused on direct-to-consumer services, but in the last year it began working with health plans, drug manufacturers and digital therapeutics providers. In 2020 it launched Well At Home with UnitedHealth Group to fight the flu and COVID-19. The company continues to grow its team and hired more than 300 people this year.

“We’re continuing to expand across the company, with 50-plus roles currently open across customer success, engineering, operations, business development, pharmacy, and more,” Afridi said.

Fierce insights from Umar Afridi, CEO of Truepill

CEO Umar Afridi
Umar Afridi (Truepill)

What is your best piece of advice for launching a healthcare company that challenges the status quo?

Have a deep understanding of the problem. Ideally, this understanding comes from years of firsthand experience learning how small details eventually culminate in the larger problem that you hope to solve. For us, that meant starting with prescription fulfillment and leaning into my experience as a pharmacist to understand how archaic technology and manual processes created a high-stress work environment for pharmacists, and long lines and fulfillment delays for patients.

This process also involves understanding the market and all the factors involved. Healthcare has many stakeholders across different areas. It’s important to know their unique incentives and how the system is set up to identify viable solutions.

At the end of the day, this all ties into the universal Y Combinator mantra of “building something the people want.”

What is the failure you’ve learned the best lesson from?

I don’t think there’s one single failure, but instead a collection of failures over the years that helped me learn. From my early side projects, I learned everything from sales and marketing to hiring and efficient production methodology. With each failure, I was able to learn new things, develop new skills and apply those to my future projects. 

What is the book you recommend to other healthcare leaders?

“High Growth Handbook: Scaling Startups From 10 to 10,000 People,” by Elad Gill. It is an amazing collection of interviews to use as a reference and learn how others have tackled different areas of building a startup.

What is your prediction for how the healthcare industry will change in 2021?

At Truepill, we envision a future where 80% of healthcare is digital, and while the shift was well underway before COVID-19, it has advanced significantly over the last few months. Digital, direct-to-patient experiences were once nice to have, but are now essential – so heading into 2021, we expect to see a growing emphasis on innovative, digital experiences that put the patient first. 

We also expect to see increased digital healthcare offerings for the management of chronic conditions, like high cholesterol or diabetes. For instance, we recently partnered with LifeScan to provide health and wellness solutions to 20 million people with diabetes and related health conditions. Looking forward, we plan to take on more partnerships like this with the goal of unlocking accessible, personalized treatment for those with chronic conditions that require ongoing care and medication.

In light of the national conversation that is happening right now, what advice would you offer to healthcare leaders seeking to make a real impact on systemic problems of racism?

COVID-19 further highlighted that minorities disproportionately suffer from chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, meaning it’s more important than ever for healthcare leaders to provide accessible options for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Telehealth and digital healthcare services have the potential to improve widespread accessibility to treatment and medication, especially for those who are medically or socially vulnerable or who do not have access to providers. For example, digital healthcare often comes with less restrictive payment provisions, and patients aren’t limited to geographic boundaries giving them access to specialized care that would be otherwise inaccessible. 

Looking forward, healthcare companies across the industry should focus on treating the whole person and creating solutions that are customizable and accessible for all patients, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation.