In this era of the internet and smartphones, our shopping customs have completely transformed with a noticeable change on the high street as the retailers have to step down. Though it may not seem so, even the pharmacies have felt the impact of this technology revolution. Millions of people all over the globe now purchase medicines and other health care products online.
Where online shopping has eased up the lives of numerous patients, it has also unsettled the traditional business system which had passed more than a century with almost no change. Earlier, the patients used to visit a general practitioner when ill, who would prescribe them certain medicines.
Then, the patient would go to a local pharmacy to buy those medicines. The pharmacist would make a living by selling a few other health products along with the medicines.
This steady system was shaken when the online pharmacies presented diverse choices to the consumers to manage their health. Due to this, the onsite pharmacies are left to find their place in this world. As a response to the online challenge, many local pharmacies have enlarged their offers to attract consumers.
The Monopoly of the Online pharmacies
After being around for almost two decades, online pharmacies have finally made a profound impact in recent years. According to Frost & Sullivan, the e-Pharmacy market in India is around US $512 million (~INR 3,500 Crores) in 2018 and it is supposed to grow at a CAGR of 63% to reach US $3,657 million (~INR 25,000 Crores) by 2023. Well, this is huge.
There are more than 250 registered online pharmacies in India. PharmEasy, the largest online pharmacy in India is recorded to deliver medicines to more than 1000 patients through their NHS electronic prescription service.
This increase in demand for online pharmacies has taken place mainly due to the aging population and also because more and more people are suffering from long-term conditions.
The role of the pharmacists redefined
The growing popularity of online pharmacies presents an excellent opportunity for all health care professionals, including GPs, nurses, and therapists which has enhanced their role in the health sector.
Investing a lot of money in the project, the NHS has set up teams of GPs and pharmacists in the neighborhood to aid critical patients, reduce overmedication and update the treatment of chronic diseases. Their aim is to make pharmacists efficient in their job and provide the patients with better services and care.
Not only this, people are increasingly using community pharmacies like Docsapp as their first preference for all kinds of non-urgent health issues. This will leave the GPs free to deal with more complex needs. The community pharmacies will get included in care plans when patients get discharged from the hospitals.
The patients nowadays are also older and more fragile, and they are suffering from multiple diseases. These factors are giving the pharmacies a clinical aspect and the pharmacists are now treating more patients.
Low costs and large scope of delivery
The rise of online pharmacies has benefitted the patients in multiple ways, out of which reduction in costs was a big relief to all those suffering from life-threatening diseases like Cancer. The model that basically functions on doorstep delivery and attractive discounts – ePharmacies are certainly helping the patients save lump sum amounts on the medicines.
So now, a human being who spends around Rs 25000 every year can easily save about 10-20% – which amounts to Rs 2500 – Rs 5000, which certainly isn’t a small amount.
Apart from the low costs, high mobility, increased access and greater anonymity to consumers are also some of the star features of online pharmacies.
They deliver to more than 22000 cities in India, including Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep – while there’s a delivery cost involved, it doesn’t have a significant impact on the total costs of the medicines. They partner with Amazon, Flipkart or similar delivery portals to ensure timely delivery.
This online delivery of medicines ensures that no patient left aloof without proper treatment. These delivery platforms are providing medicines even to the most remote areas where there is hardly any brick and mortar pharmacy to serve the patients.
“Lots of people prefer mail-order pharmacies and if they are available at similar prices on the internet pharmacies, they can be a good thing too,” says Powder Springs, GA, pediatric emergency physician Debi Dalton.
Better disease management
The online pharmacies not only take care of the patient’s medicines but their well-being as a whole. Representatives at the brick-and-mortar stores can’t come knocking at the doors of every customer to remind them of their dosages, e-pharmacies can send you reminders as many times a day just by the click of a button. Some organizations also offer free diet consultancy and regularly educate their customers about the current updates of the healthcare industry.
Certain safeguards are necessarily kept in place. Most of the online pharmacies ask their patients to complete a form that not only asks for your billing information but there are also some fields asking for a list of all prescriptions and over the counter medications that a patient has already been taken. When completed all the details the patient can make a purchase with just a few clicks.
Not a threat to offline stores!
While the digital pharmacies have a list of benefits to offer, it still can’t replace the urgency of healthcare products. Medicines are not like a pair of jeans or a smartphone. On the worst days, patients need to rely on the nearby stores. Apart from that, when someone’s life is at stake, there’s a lot of quality criteria that must be fulfilled to ensure complete safety.
The times are changing and the world is greatly shifting to the small screen they carry in their pockets. Complying with the change, if the healthcare industry is experiencing a similar trend, we must welcome it with open arms considering the convenience and ease.
However, don’t blindly follow it. Analyze the pros and cons, check if the portal is authentic and follows all the rules laid down for online pharmacies and then go ahead with the order. After all, your health is your responsibility
Everything said I believe the health sector certainly has an exciting future considering the unprecedented rise of the online pharmacies!