Anonymized Healthcare Case Study
US-based drugstore chain and digital marketplace brings virtual health to the masses with Sendbird
This digital marketplace of curated care providers was established to help connect customers and their families with care services that work for their schedule and budget. Users can find solutions for 100+ health conditions, including select in-person services and a growing list of approved providers, products and services.
This national pharmacy store chain had offered in-person health clinics for almost two decades, but it had substantially held back in-person visits, which prompted its Senior Director of Product Strategy to wonder, “Why stop at the physical person-to-person? Why don’t we go virtual as well? The ability to speak with a health advisor at any time during working hours should be the next bet for us.” From there, this idea eventually evolved to including health coaching services to further aid our user base. However, the desire for strong digital healthcare required a strong virtual conversations platform as well. With [our drugstore chain] officially getting into the healthcare business, choosing the appropriate messaging vendor was a major factor for us,” states the Senior Director.
The company’s use case required chat to be used within the applications they had developed for Android and iOS, and their previous solution was not working well for their needs. The Director of Technical Program Management explains, “Initially it was less about what you do with chat as it was how you integrate and deploy chat within an application, which our old solution did not do very well at all. We have a fairly large dependency on their other services, so it was ironic we had a very tough time integrating their chat platform.”
New mission in tow, the Product team quickly started the journey in finding a vendor that could provide the features and functionality their previous solution could not. With creating a robust healthcare experience as its end-goal, the company eventually connected with Sendbird, a vendor that could finally meet its needs.
With its previous environment, the pharmacy chain had a fundamental issue with users’ chat initiation only capable of being started on the company’s side, whereas a proper chat experience needed to be bi-directional and capable of being initiated by both patients and health advisors. The Senior Director explains, “this was table-stakes functionality for us; if I want to talk to a coach, I want to talk to a coach. So we had to cancel the coaching pilot, which punted our timeline by almost six to eight months because we cannot go to market with a flawed experience.”
During the team’s evaluation of vendors, there was some familiarity with Sendbird already due to so many companies worldwide using Sendbird services. The Senior Director elaborates, “I had heard from my team that Sendbird powered so many large brands, and that pretty much tells me off the bat that if they can work at that scale, it doesn’t matter who initiates a conversation.”
However, these were merely the baseline requirements. Beyond basic messaging, the company wanted calls and video for greater communication flexibility between patients and advisors. The team was firm with its checklist, stating that calls and video would later be added to supplement the user experience. With Sendbird Calls allowing for high-quality voice and video in the app, company leaders were confident in Sendbird’s managed infrastructure that could handle the scale the team was preparing for.
While the team also considered creating chat in-house, the burden of building and maintaining the infrastructure and uptime, as well as the six to eight months lost on their previous solution, did not make sense with speed and efficiency the top priorities. “It makes almost zero sense for us to build. There is no way I can commit to this level of uptime. When there are players like Sendbird, and our team all have busy day jobs, why would I want to build it separately? Sendbird was an easy decision for us.”
With Sendbird, this pharmacy chain and digital marketplace officially launched its health advisory program, allowing customers/patients to speak with doctors and other health professionals at all working hours via chat. By partnering closely with the Sendbird team, the MVP was delivered in just 3-4 months, with the immediate roadmap to launch the coaching program 2 quarters later to facilitate cross-functional alignment.
The current conversations experience in the digital health marketplace app currently follows a one-to-many approach, meaning customers can interact and connect with a variety of advisors all at the same time. While chatting, both sides can share images, files, emojis and more. “Think of the experience as our branded version of WhatsApp or iMessage,” states the Senior Director.
Though the app has only recently launched and is still in its early phase, the team has big plans for its service. Many people have trouble trusting their insurance companies, so speaking with a healthcare advisor who can provide easy, quick assistance based on medication needs, health status, etc. is the bet the company is making to bring customers into their app.
The idea of building a larger community within the company’s digital marketplace is what they believe will encourage customers to stay. The Senior Director elaborates, “Say your employer offers you coaching. Now you have a coach assigned to you, and a coach can bring in other secondary coaches, depending if you’re focused on food versus exercise where different people have different specialties. Now you have a small clinical care team taking care of you.”
However, he believes that expanding even beyond the clinical team and bringing in family or partners who are invested in your health creates an even deeper feeling of connection and community. “Let’s say you have a spouse and want them to be a part of this conversation because you never cook at home, and they cook all the time. They’ll need to know what needs to be done. In this setting, you have yourself, your spouse and coaches or health advisors, we have multiple channels, and it starts building the concept of a community.”
The team anticipates millions of active users once they fully market their health service and is confident in what Sendbird can provide. The Senior Director articulates, “Sendbird is the right solution for the job, and I reference Sendbird’s gaming customers because gamers are usually very unforgiving when it comes to not getting their features in place.” The Director of Technical Program Management adds, “We’ve been able to have a very transparent relationship as well. We know where Sendbird is heading, and they bring the right people. When we say we’d like to add this feature to the product, when can you do that? Sendbird says, ‘here’s where it is in our roadmap.'”