Health Tech

Zócalo Health Teams Up with Mark Cuban’s Pharmacy to Increase Medication Access for Latino Patients

Zócalo Health, a virtual primary care provider designed for Latino patients, recently forged a collaboration with Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs. Now all Zócalo patients have access to Cost Plus Drugs’ prescriptions, and the provider’s community health workers have been trained to help walk patients through the process of obtaining medications through the pharmacy.

Zócalo Health, a virtual primary care provider designed for Latino patients, on Tuesday announced a collaboration with Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company (Cost Plus Drugs). Now all Zócalo patients have access to Cost Plus Drugs’ prescriptions through membership packages or one-time urgent care visits. 

Both startups’ missions revolve around expanding access to care and encouraging patients to stick with their treatment plans. Cost Plus Drugs is meant to increase Americans’ access to inexpensive generic drugs by making and selling them at fixed, transparent profit margins. 

Zócalo was founded in 2021 by Erik Cardenas and Mariza Hardin, who are both veterans of the healthcare industry. Between the two, they have held positions at large healthcare companies such as Tenet Healthcare, Omada Health, Everlywell and the now-defunct Amazon Care

They created Zócalo to address the fact that Latinos face disproportionately limited access to primary care services, with a ratio of one primary care physician for every 5,000 to 6,000 residents living in predominantly Latino zip codes, Cardenas said during a September interview with MedCity News.

The startup, which has headquarters in Seattle, offers its virtual primary care services through one-time visit fees and membership dues. On the platform, patients can access a care team that is led by their promotor de salud (health promoter), a community health worker who helps coach patients through their care journey. Other members of the care team include physicians, nurses and therapists.

Zócalo currently serves patients in Texas and California, and it has plans to expand to other states in the future.

Individual memberships, which cost $40 per month, include 12 physician visits per year, as well as unlimited access to the promotor de salud through chat, video and phone encounters. Household memberships cost $60 per month. 

Zócalo differentiates itself from other virtual primary care providers like Teladoc or Firefly Health because the company is “for Latinos, by Latinos,” Cardenas said. He noted that patients are connected with care teams that “look like them, talk like them and think like them.”

Hiring Latino clinicians who are able to relate to patients on a cultural level ensures that clinicians will not disregard the closely-held beliefs and traditions that Latinos have, such as the use of home remedies. Deploying Latino care teams is a more genuine way to cater to the unique cultural needs of this population than just simply translating content, like some other providers do, Cardena pointed out.

Zócalo partnered with Cost Plus Drugs to address two major issues it saw among its patient base. The first is that cost is often a prohibitive factor keeping Latino patients from sticking to their medication plan. The other is that patients have a hard time navigating the convoluted process of filling prescriptions and getting them sent to their homes.

“There’s all these innovative services and strategies out there, but our community was really struggling to access them — not only because of a language barrier, but also a tech divide,” Hardin said in a recent interview.

Zócalo recognizes that primary care doesn’t stop when the patient leaves their visit, she added. Primary care continues in daily life, and a huge aspect of that is medication adherence. Hardin pointed out that Zócalo “can’t do [its] job as primary care provider if our members aren’t picking up prescriptions.”

By joining forces with Cost Plus Drugs, Zócalo is not only seeking to drive awareness that there are cheaper options, but also ensure that these less expensive options are easy to access. The company’s promotores de salud work with patients to ensure their prescriptions are filled through Cost Plus Drugs so they don’t have to navigate the process alone.

“We make sure that we’re not just saying, ‘Hey, good luck,’ and letting people kind of fend for themselves. That’s why we have this critical role of the promotor de salud who is there to help handhold people as much as they need. I think that is super important, and it’s something that unfortunately not a lot of practices incorporate into their care model,” Cardenas declared.

Photo: Stas_V, Getty Images