American health care is expensive, and disrupting the often-complicated system has been a mission of the tech sector for a while, building everything from wellness apps to startup insurance providers.
This wave of tech services also includes Blink Health, an app that offers users discounted prescription medications at guaranteed prices. The startup, which announced this week the opening of a new headquarters in New York City, currently has a network of over 750,000 customers, according to the company. Since its founding in 2014, Blink has raised $165 million in venture capital while competing with other pharmaceutical services like GoodRx.
Observer spoke to Blink Health co-founder and CEO Geoffrey Chaiken about the company’s role in the health-tech industry and how consumer-facing technology is affecting America’s hotly debated health care system.
Blink is part of a group of startups offering discount medical services, showing increasing demand for comprehensive medication buying. Tell us how the company’s growth ties into this.
Blink is the first and only e-commerce marketplace for prescription drugs. Historically, the only option patients had for reducing prescription prices were drug discount coupons, which require patients to print a coupon for a lower price. Blink is the only service that has the lowest price, backed by a price match guarantee serving every community in America. And since Blink accepts the payment, unlike a coupon, the price you see is the price you pay. With Blink, patients purchase online and then can pick up at their local retailer or choose home delivery.
As the demand for Blink continues to grow, so does our business. Blink has gone through a tremendous amount of growth in 2019, and we expect to continue rapidly expanding, which is why we just moved our headquarters to a much larger space in New York. We also recently added new offices in Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Boston.
Furthermore, can you tell us how Blink works with providers and pharmacies to offer customers low cost prescription medication?
Before Blink, no company has had a true, un-conflicted responsibility to work for the benefit of patients by providing them with the lowest prices on generic prescription drugs. Within the pharmacy industry, there’s a shadow group of companies known as Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs, which are contracted by insurance companies and negotiate with pharmacies; they also have a side business in prescription drug coupons, which can sometimes help customers save money in the short-term, but often result in increased drug costs over time. More importantly, since the PBMs’ main profits come from insurance companies, their loyalty is to insurers, not patients. Blink, by contrast, offers low prices to patients without that conflict of interest.
There are only a handful of PBMs, and they wield such market power that they can also under-pay pharmacies while quietly siphoning billions in additional profit for themselves. We wanted to create a situation where we could offer a fair reimbursement to pharmacies while lowering prices for patients, and we can do that by cutting out these middlemen.
You just opened a big headquarters in New York City after scaling and raising funding from investors in recent years. Tell us how this expansion came to be and what plans the future holds for Blink.
Blink has been growing incredibly quickly since the beginning of the year, and we outgrew our previous space. Since the start of 2019, we’ve added eight new senior leaders, including Madan Nagaldinne as chief people officer, Bharath Chinamanthur as executive vice president of engineering, and Eytan Seidman as head of product, as well as others who will be announced shortly.
These new additions, from renowned companies like Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft, are accelerating our innovation while also helping us create an inspiring culture by attracting the most talented people across a wide breadth of fields. Blink’s workforce is quickly developing into the most innovative in the industry, which is critical as we work both to solve some of the most difficult problems in health care and technology, and to scale our solutions.
In addition to our new executives, this year alone, we’ve hired more than 50 engineers and brought on more than 150 new employees in total. Our new SoHo headquarters provides us with about 20,000 additional square feet of space to continue expanding. We look forward to adding even more team members from New York City’s deep pool of health care and technology talent.
Health care is one of the hottest industries currently being disrupted, coinciding with the industry’s major political ties to the upcoming election. How do you think the topic being on the forefront of Americans’ minds is assisting tech’s navigation of health care issues, as well as products by companies like Blink?
Health care has always been a core concern for Americans. And to date, well-intentioned legislative solutions have had limited impact. One-third of all prescriptions are left at the counter due to price, and half of people do not take their prescriptions as prescribed, which is unacceptable.
At Blink, we’re not going to wait for the government to solve this problem. We believe it can be solved much more quickly through technology and innovative business models. Already, we’ve been able to impact prices, with 4,000 medications priced under $10 using Blink. And we’ve demonstrated the ability to continue to lower prices through new services like home delivery and our tele-health offering, which allows patients to go online and complete a doctor’s visit, at some of the lowest prices in the industry.
At the end of the day, we’re providing consumers with lower prescription prices, greater transparency and increased convenience, and we’re incredibly proud to be doing so.