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Is Pager the Uber of healthcare?

Has healthcare come full circle with the return of the house call? That’s what Pager’s betting on. This two-year-old US startup is redefining the patient/doctor relationship and expanding rapidly with key strategic partnerships. The brainchild of executives from Uber, Teladoc, Gilt and Buzzfeed, Pager is reinventing traditional point-of-care with smart tech and simple, transparent healthcare.

Pager’s Head of Marketing, Andrew Chomer, shared his insights behind the brand’s strategy, growth positioning—and why you shouldn’t call them the “Uber” of healthcare.

How do you see traditional doctor/patient relationships affected in the new on-demand healthcare ecosystem?

We like to think we’ve studied the past to define our future. The concept of a home visit is nothing new and allowed for a highly personalized experience to exist. Both the physician and the patient would greatly prefer more focused time while minimizing chaos. In creating a high-touch experience, we’re enabling a better connection with the doctor (and nurse) and the patient. In many ways the overuse and misuse of things like the Emergency Room have resulted in many of the inefficiencies that plague the healthcare system: higher costs, higher premiums, long lines, unhappy customers, stressed clinicians.

Our model is about changing that approach and reducing friction for all parties. Based on our success to date, we’re seeing happier patients and happier clinicians, mostly because they get to focus on the patients and do what they love to do. In terms of how that affects the other parties in the healthcare system, we see future opportunities to help streamline the relationship with the PCPs and specialists with the use of our technology. Referrals and after hour care will only help to improve the relationship and efficiency of the care provided.

Pager’s positioning as a startup has been described as the “Uber of healthcare” —is that a fair description? Or how do you prefer to describe your brand strategy and what differentiates Pager?

As a startup, any time you’re associated with a highly-valued company like Uber it’s considered a blessing, so we absolutely take that as an honor. That said, I think that description only touches one aspect of our business and the tagline doesn’t necessarily do our company justice.

A better comparison might be the Amazon or Seamless of healthcare, in terms of our focus on building a marketplace for healthcare services. Our goal is to make healthcare clear, accessible and responsive by connecting patients to the care they need. What differentiates Pager from the competition is our focus on empowering the customer (or patient in our case) to take care into their own hands. With the touch of a button, you can chat with a nurse, speak with a doctor or have a doctor or nurse come to your location within two hours. In many ways, that alone changes the game in healthcare, although our longer-term vision is to leverage our technology to make healthcare affordable.

Everyone’s focused on big data these days.  Is Pager planning to use any of its technology for larger (data-driven) health plays such as understanding disease patterns?

Data, in general, plays a vital role to informing our company strategy and optimizing our day-to-day operations; some examples are capacity planning, new service offerings and improving experiences. As such, we dedicate significant resources to leveraging data science as an asset to the organization.

“Big data” in the current zeitgeist sense is not a direct focus of Pager at the moment. Although, with scale comes increased interactions, and we believe data will play a critical role in how we develop AI to improve efficiencies in the healthcare ecosystem. This positions Pager to tackle some of the most at-need and expensive populations. 

Pager recently partnered with Zipdrug to offer prescription delivery, and also paired up with Evolution Health. How do strategic partnerships play into your company’s growth in the coming years and also affect the consumer experience you provide?

Our role in the evolution of the healthcare space is that of a connector. Given that role, partnerships are critical for us in scaling both supply and demand. The partnerships we’ve struck this year with Walgreens, Envision (and Evolution Health) and Zipdrug have enabled us to match increased demand (Walgreens) with a supply that allows us to scale efficiently (Envision).

As a brand we’re only scratching the surface in terms of where partnerships will lead us. With our expansion into enterprise solutions, I would foresee benefits platforms, payers and PEOs (professional employer organizations) as a large part of our 2016 growth. Additionally, we’re exploring the use of API’s to generate additional demand with healthcare applications, payers and systems themselves.

The Walgreens relationship marks a big change in the growth and reach of Pager, especially with Walgreens’s acquisitions of Boots and Rite Aid.  How do you see the partnership impacting Pager customers overall, and how do you envision its impact on traditional point of care?

I’d say our partnership is still in its infant stages, in terms of the potential impact, but we believe the model of redefining a ‘traditional point of care’ is definitely experiencing a disruption. The biggest impact of the partnership will most likely be as a natural extension for Walgreens customers to leverage Pager services by streamlining access to care through Walgreens touchpoints.

At the moment, our focus is predominantly on the Walgreens digital touchpoints, testing demand and defining the opportunity. We believe there are great opportunities to explore for extending the Walgreens pharmacy reach out of the store, closing the loop with both writing prescriptions (with Pager physicians) and delivery as well as providing the option to deliver chicken noodle soup because a user has a cold. The healthcare industry has severely struggled with providing a great customer experience and we believe focusing on access, response time and an improved experience is what sets us apart. Walgreens realizes that potential, and believes this partnership can mold a new model.

Pager currently operates in New York and San Francisco and plans to expand to other major US cities. Do you see a role for Pager in rural or even global locations or do you need the physician network of a larger city to work?

Given their truly national presence, our partnership with Envision allows us to deploy the Pager platform in a wide range of potential markets. Today our solution definitely fits that of metro markets.

Solving for a rural market brings a different set of complexities. I see a need for both, but demand will most likely dictate much of the expansion efforts, which means you would most likely see Pager in London before Lansing. As a startup operating in a highly regulated and complex industry, focus is extremely important. We recognize we cannot be everything to everyone.

This interview originally appeared on brandchannel.


Director of Marketing, InterbrandHealth