The Influence of E-Commerce in the Healthcare Industry
In the past few years, e-commerce has made tremendous headway. Americans are more likely than ever to turn to the internet to purchase products and services, and healthcare is quickly becoming a sector of the economy where e-commerce plays an important role. In that role, e-commerce is transforming the face of the healthcare industry, and this article will examine the influence e-commerce exerts over the healthcare sector.
First, by definition, e-commerce is changing the way people shop for healthcare products, and the way those products end up in the hands of customers. Instead of personally visiting physical brick and mortar locations, many customers are turning to the internet to perform the functions of a regular pharmacy. Companies like Capsule use a business model that features fast delivery to patients’ doors, live online chats to handle patient questions, and an app that allows doctors to order directly through Capsule.
What’s more, investors see promise in this revolutionary approach to medication fulfillment. In 2017, Capsule raised $20 million from investors who bought into its business model, despite the fact that similarly structured competitors PillPack, ScriptAssist, DivvyDOSE, and others were already active in the market. In 2018, PillPack was acquired by Amazon for just under $1 billion, again demonstrating the confidence that the market has in this shifting healthcare landscape.
Unsurprisingly, even care itself has begun to creep into the e-commerce territory. Apps like Practo and FirstOpinion, and websites like Doctor2U and YourDoctors.Online are pioneering a form of healthcare e-commerce called telemedicine. Each service works on a slightly different business model, but the concept is the same: doctors offer advice over text or live chat to patients, eliminating the need for a physical doctor’s office or time spent traveling away from home. Although this does not eliminate the need for in-person examinations, telemedicine can often help patients determine whether an examination is necessary.
Increase the Patient Experience
Fascinatingly, telemedicine can be paired with pharmaceutical e-commerce to allow a remarkably smooth patient experience. Patients can chat with a doctor about their symptoms, get a diagnosis, and receive medication delivered to their door, all within a few hours. Platforms like Walgreens and NowRX deliver prescriptions that can be quickly and easily ordered online. As technology advances, healthcare providers that leverage e-commerce have an opportunity to drastically improve patients’ experience through the access of healthcare. You can get the treatment and medicine you need all without leaving the comfort of your home!
Because of customers’ increased use of the Internet to access products and medical care, healthcare providers have been increasingly concerned with the quality of their online presence. In a world where transactions and information gathering is increasingly online, healthcare providers must be aware of the way they present themselves online. One online medical marketplace reported that over half of their patients are referred by their primary provider or by hospital staff, and an additional 20% are referred by friends or family members.
Typically, when people get a referral, even from someone close to them, they go online to do a bit of research about the recommendation. You might check Yelp to verify that a restaurant is as good as you’ve heard, a book review to see if you should give it a read, or the website of a healthcare organization you’re considering to see if you should become a patient. That means that it’s vital for healthcare providers to monitor and protect their reputation, especially online.
Services like Yelp can do wonders for doctors with good reputations. They offer a way for prospective customers to get a sense for the physician’s “bedside manner” and to understand the culture of care. Furthermore, satisfied patients can use review services to expand on their positive experiences and health outcomes. It is vital that doctors acknowledge the influence of these resources and work to maintain good reputations.
It is also important for healthcare providers to make websites accessible to potential patients. Mobile-friendly web design is one of the most important aspects of website strategy. In 2018, 52% of world wide web traffic came from users accessing the internet with a smartphone or tablet. Unfortunately, mobile web traffic is an aspect of web design that is often undervalued or even ignored. Statistics show that 40% of users will go to a competitor after a bad experience on mobile, and yet 84% of consumers have reported difficulties with websites they access on their mobile devices. There is tremendous potential for healthcare providers to gain or lose customers based solely on the quality of their mobile sites.
There are a few things that a quality mobile website should have. For instance, doctors should ensure their sites have a short server load time, are appealing to the eye (such as not being packed with images or words but not being too sparse), and feature easy navigation and menus throughout. Furthermore, it is vital that the site adequately represents the physician and his or her dedication to and specialties in patient care.
In addition, e-commerce represents opportunities for clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices to streamline their purchases of medical equipment and supplies. Medical device manufacturers are increasingly moving online, to allow for direct orders and product deliveries. This creates some challenges, as healthcare providers must ensure that their suppliers can adhere to regulations and deliver products on time. But, it also means that providers can give their patients better quality care by allowing a greater focus on the patient and less focus on supply issues. An example of such a firm is MedicalExpo, an online exhibition of medical products that directly connects buyers and suppliers from around the world.
E-commerce is shifting the landscape of healthcare, and it’s important for healthcare providers to understand the implications of that shift. As with any new technology, e-commerce in healthcare is an undeniably positive force, but one that must be harnessed with careful and innovative thinking.