Castlight Aims for Health Care Transparency with Drug Shopping Tool

Castlight Pharmacy provides a way to compare drug costs and save on out-of-pocket medical expenses.

With medication prices rising, Castlight Health is looking to keep the health care industry transparent by introducing a new Pharmacy app that allows consumers to shop for the best prices on medications.

The pharmacy app uses big data logic to crunch medical claims and find ways patients can save money on prescriptions, Ethan Prater, vice president of products at Castlight, told eWEEK.

By offering the Pharmacy application, Castlight is looking to simplify for consumers the complicated process of purchasing prescription drugs. The channel is a key influencer of drug prices, Prater noted. A pharmacy manager must negotiate with a drug supplier, and then a patient's pharmacy benefits come into play. Whether a drug is sold in a 30- or 90-day supply also affects pricing.

"The idea of the Castlight product is to make those decisions easy for the consumer," said Prater.

The application lets users compare retail and mail-order pricing as well as choose a pharmacy location offering the best value. It also indicates if pill-splitting is an option. Splitting higher-dosage pills can save consumers money, Prater noted.

As medications such as Lipitor vary in price by $50 per month, depending on the pharmaceutical provider, software such as Castlight Pharmacy can help consumers figure out where to get the best price.

Employers offer Castlight's software as part of their employee benefits. Employees view prices for drugs based on their individual health plans, and the software factors in details such as deductibles.

As employers continue to shift health care costs to employees, workers will need a tool to sift through options for purchasing medications, said Peter Isaacson, chief marketing officer for Castlight.

"Employees are now expected to cover much of the cost burden," Isaacson told eWEEK.

Announced March 20, Pharmacy allows users to view out-of-pocket costs and search a directory of pharmacies. A link to prescription mail-order services allows order fulfillment to be integrated into the application.

The app summarizes a patient's benefit options and health care expenditures in real time and provides alerts on low-cost options for medications consumers have purchased in the past. It also provides educational tips on medication adherence.

Pharmacy will become integrated along with the comparison tool for medical services in Castlight's health care management suite, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) benefits platform the company customizes for employers.

Users can access the company's health care management suite as a Web tool, or on a mobile version that integrates both the pharmacy search functionality and medical-shopping tool launched in March 2012. Castlight runs on Apple iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. A mobile Web version is compatible with BlackBerry smartphones.

Patients can use the mobile tool to look up medication costs and pharmacy locations when leaving a doctor's office.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park co-founded Castlight in 2008, along with the company's CEO, Dr. Giovanni Colella. Castlight had the biggest health care IT venture capital deal in 2012, raising $100 million, according to a Jan. 28 report by the Mercom Capital Group.

Other services that allow consumers to compare drug prices include LowestMed, which launched in January 2012. Its mobile app allows users to compare prices at major pharmacy chains, and the Web version offers prices at local mom-and-pop pharmacies.