Can Pharmacies Seize their eCommerce Opportunity?
During this age of digitalization, we have seen the rise of telehealth adoption – especially with specialty drugs and prescription drugs.
This raises the question as to whether pharma businesses can take the increasing opportunity laid out to them by the acceleration of digital health demand.
The pandemic has triggered a monumental movement towards digital across all industries. Online solutions that were previously just one channel among a multichannel mix in the pre-pandemic times are now integral to business. This has led many businesses to reconsider and reinvest in their ecommerce operations.
And one area that offers strong potential for new ecommerce models is the pharmaceutical sector.
The increased adoption of telemedicine, added to stronger consumer sentiment towards online channels and a more sympathetic regulatory climate, have provided a huge opportunity for pharma businesses willing to take a new look at how they sell their products and services.
End-to-end ecommerce capabilities provide promising possibilities in a world where consumers increasingly expect to be able to get what they need online.
This opportunity has so far been taken up by those offering generic drugs. Pharmacies should look to accelerate their ecommerce operations and offer their own branded products.
This would benefit their patients by providing them with the comprehensive digital experience the pandemic has demonstrated a need for, but also it would give the pharmacies the means to take control and increase their revenues, helping them to understand patients through access to data, giving them a valuable advantage over competitors.
Accelerating digital health
With the onset of the pandemic, consumers moved online en masse. The surge in ecommerce during this time is clear in the food and beverage industry.
The healthcare sector is no exception to this trend. The recent onset of global challenges has driven new forms of healthcare, with a significant increase in telehealth solutions.
In the US, there are added factors that have driven the accelerated adoption of telehealth. These include laws that ensure on-par reimbursement with an in-person consultation, federal-level deregulation legislation, and access to services for Medicare patients.
Another example of the strengthening of telehealth services is the recent investment in the area: for example, this year telehealth company Anwell raised a cool $194 million in series C round funding.
Apart from telehealth consultations, there have also been huge increases in remote care in general, which includes the issuing of prescriptions and filling in scripts for medication. According to one patient survey, 29% of them saw remote care as an important factor in selecting a healthcare provider. What’s more, 53% of patients viewed remote care options as more important since the beginning of the pandemic.
Mail order services are also strengthening remote care, as direct-to-consumer (DTC) services are becoming the default choice for patients, with mail-order pharmacy channels in high demand. Mail order services in addition to apps accounted for 38% of the alternative channels to visiting a pharmacy in-person to fill a prescription, with approximately 70% of users reporting that they would likely use these services in the future.
This combined increase in telehealth and remote care highlights the truth that patients are prepared to move a large part of their medical care to digital channels.
Although there is a clear appetite among patients, outside of limited specialized offerings that offer generic drugs, the end-to-end ecommerce experience still remains limited.
The majority of solutions currently available are partial: telemedicine providers, prescription services, ecommerce platforms, and pharmacies are all still separate entities. And this leads to an inefficient process and potentially poor patient experiences online.
So here we are: there remains a huge opportunity for pharmacies to bring the entire value chain together for the benefit of their patients, partnering each element of the telehealth service in order to create an end-to-end ecommerce experience.