Instead of driving to a pharmacy for your next prescription refill, what if your doctor told you it was time to head to a dance class? Or maybe a pottery class, if that’s more your style?
That is the vision Art Pharmacy, an Atlanta-based startup, has for the future of healthcare.
Art Pharmacy has built a network of healthcare providers – ranging from primary care physicians to oncologists to behavioral health therapists – and connects them with a network of arts and culture organizations that have activities that show “protective and therapeutic mental health benefits.”
Healthcare providers call up Art Pharmacy, in the same way they would call up a retail pharmacy, and the startup’s backend software refers a patient to different programs that might be right for them based on their condition, age, and other factors flagged during an initial baseline assessment. A patient might be given a prescription to attend a visual arts class, a night of musical theater, or even a creative writing seminar.
Atlanta partners include the Alliance Theatre, Actor’s Express, Flux Projects, Marietta Theater Company, the Southeast Fiber Arts, according to its website.
The arts and culture class is then billed to insurance so that the patient does not pay out of pocket.
With patients, insurance, and healthcare providers all bought in as key stakeholders, Founder and CEO Chris Appleton said Art Pharmacy is all about “improving patient health and reducing cost.”
The Art Pharmacy team says the platform has a clear benefit for providers, who can use the prescriptions to check in between visits and provide a differentiated experience for their patients. For insurance providers, it is about preventative care and mitigating costly downstream patient costs.
The Intersection of Art & Health
Appleton said that the pandemic “really put gasoline on the mental health crisis in the country” for adolescents and older adults. “Demand for mental health services just went through the roof. Supply, the availability of mental health services, has not been able to keep up.”
Art Pharmacy has been working on shifting that supply and demand imbalance since launching in April of 2022.
Appleton comes from the arts and culture space, having previously served as the Executive Director of the Atlanta-based non-profit WonderRoot. Appleton co-founded WonderRoot while in college which he continued to lead for 15 years before resigning in 2019.
Now, it is full steam ahead with Art Pharmacy. The team has grown to be five full-time employees and has filled prescriptions in California, Georgia, and Massachusetts this year. It also received a round of outside investment from early-stage firms and angel investors.