When it comes to e-commerce in health care, the market extends beyond B2C and B2B. The Global Market Insights analyst firm projects a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2020 and 2026 of 28.5% for the digital health market. As internet penetration grows and mobile/internet apps become more popular, e-commerce opens new ways for the health care industry — both telehealth and telepharmacy — by releasing its untapped potential, thus making it the next big thing in online retail.
Moreover, per a report from Frost & Sullivan, the market value of health care e-commerce is expected to be $200 billion USD by 2022. This figure itself is louder and more potent than any word that states the importance of e-commerce in health care. However, there’s a survival rule here: Those who are innovative and adaptive to technological advances will win the race.
In this article, you will learn how to take the first step toward health care e-commerce. I will cover how e-commerce benefits the B2B and B2C sectors, as well as challenges in health care retail. Plus, you'll learn about the latest e-commerce trends in health care.
Benefits of B2B and B2C e-Commerce in Health Care: Consumers
Those who have been caregivers know how difficult it is to buy medical supplies for patients.
Medicines can often be challenging to find in different stores and can take a lot of time to find.
In contrast, buying medical supplies online is much more convenient.
The following are some benefits of purchasing medical supplies online:
The first thing that comes with buying medicine online is convenience. When you have e-commerce at your fingertips, you don't have to move an inch from your space. All you need is to keep your prescription ready and place an order. What is more left?
Nothing, absolutely nothing.
You only have to wait for the delivery agent to knock on your doorstep with your medicine(s).
2. Ease of Access
Now that convenience is covered, the next question pops into our mind, is it easy to use?
The short answer is: yes! The “E” in B2C e-commerce should not stand for electronic, but for “ease of access.”
Buying medicine online is as easy as shopping for clothes online. Consumers can simple search for medicine(s) online through any pharmacy app or website. Then, add them to their cart, upload a prescription (if required), make payment, and voilà — they are done!
The internet is becoming a go-to drugstore with a range of medicine that was previously hard to obtain.
3. Discounts and Offers
Who doezn't like discounts?
Since more vendors are now selling medical supplies online, they also offer great discounts to compete against one another and sustain themselves in the market. Not only does this offer medicine(s) at affordable rates, but it also gives the consumer purchasing power. And, it ensures that online merchants are more likely to offer specials and promotions, like free shipping or discounts on high-volume orders.
4. Remote Medical Assistance
Patients can use smart mobile apps to contact a doctor thousands of kilometers away in an emergency. With mobility solutions in health care, professionals can check on patients promptly and diagnose problems while on the road.
Benefits of B2B and B2C e-Commerce in Health Care: Businesses
The e-commerce industry does not only benefit the end-users, but also e-commerce health care businesses. The following are the benefits for health care e-commerce merchants:
1. Increased Personalization
Getting more detailed information about customers is easier when you have B2C e-commerce on your side. There are plenty of e-commerce systems at your disposal to customize the user experience to a great extent.
Customer details allow you to personalize users' e-commerce experience based on order history, previous purchases, and preferences. While such algorithms may be more suited to a B2C viewpoint, the number of B2B companies that have incorporated this notion into their operations might surprise you.
2. Improved Customer Experience
Your e-commerce website has a purpose beyond attracting new consumers: It is a helpful resource for enhancing the customer experience for existing customers.
Buyers may check the status of an order, track it, request authorization for a refund, browse previous orders, and place new orders conveniently. By strategically cross-selling and upselling, you may enhance average order value. Best of all, your consumers have access to your business 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
It is the self-serve paradigm demanded by today's medical purchasers.
3. Increase Operational Efficiency
Since your customers place orders online, you need not worry about the human error associated with a salesperson manually entering an order. Use of e-commerce enables customer support representatives to focus on providing genuine customer help rather than simply accepting and inputting orders. Plus, you can reduce order errors by integrating your website and ERP, andcan also streamline your shipping and inventory procedures.
4. More Help for Patients
Understaffing and a shortage of supplies continue to put health centers and workers under strain; however, the 'E' in B2B e-commerce may stand for “efficiency”, since we understand how it eases some of that burden.
Patients who do not require urgent treatment from doctors or hospital personnel can now be sent to online health care portals, allowing those who need emergency intervention to receive it more promptly.
What Challenges Does Health Care e-Commerce Face?
Hospitals, medical institutions, and other health care providers must adapt to the changing needs of an increasingly digitally savvy population. The following are challenges that health care e-commerce faces in operating online:
General Motors spends more money on health care than it does on its steel. Many players influence the cost of health care services, from equipment and pharmaceutical makers to insurance policy providers. Additionally, growing health care and pharmaceutical expenses affect both health care firms' income and the wallets of consumers.
2. Data Security and Privacy
Health care providers securely keep patient health histories and data, which enables accurate diagnoses and the development of treatment programs in the future. However, e-commerce business must safely and effectively keep this data stored, ensuring that it stays secure and relevant.
Many health care practitioners lack the documentation systems and standards to manage significant quantities of patient data. Storage of such data can lead to a higher risk of data breaches and costly expenditures in additional labor or software to assist with data management and retrieval.
>3. Data Overload and Inaccuracy
While health care technology adoption has skyrocketed over the previous decade, it lags in patient data management. Many health care practitioners employ the “conventional” Patient Information Form (PIF), filled out with a pen and printed paper. But, physically interacting with large amounts of data results in a less effective business process due to human error, storage space, and time restrictions getting in the way.
4. Health Care Accessibility
Not every patient has easy access to medical care online. Moreover, patients who don’t have access to digital technologies may need to step out of their comfort zone to seek medical assistance.
Patients like this can sometimes ignore their health because of an inability to take time off work or go to a health care provider's office.
Further, health care worker shortages amid COVID-19 also have a detrimental effect on the sector, making it more difficult for patients to access treatment and for schedule flexibility.
5. Quality of Care
Many health care institutions are understaffed, with few nurses, support staff, and experts to meet the demand of patient populations.
Understaffing can cause overwork, raising the risk of human error and straining the system's ability to deliver proper care. In a system fighting to remain afloat, efficient care delivery online is impossible, and the danger of burnout or compassion fatigue can become severe.
e-Commerce Trends in Health Care
Believe us or not, e-commerce is drastically changing the shape of the health care domain. Though health care is doing well with its traditional approach, it can outgrow many leading industries when combined with leading-edge technologies.
Let’s look at health care e-commerce trends that are shaping the e-health domain:
- Artificial Intelligence
The market for health care artificial intelligence (AI) is projected to grow to a tremendous amount of $36.1 billion USD by 2025. AI has completely changed the game of online commerce by maximizing efficiency and minimizing human errors, and can be used in many ways for e-commerce in health care. These include early diagnosis, patient care, drug allocation, health care research, surgery, virtual support, and prescriptions.
If you think blockchain limits itself to Fintech and Cryptocurrency, think again! According to an IDC report, 1 out of 5 medical and health care businesses uses blockchain for patient information management and identity purposes. The blockchain serves almost every sector, from banking, financing, supply chain management, forecasting, and health care. Moreover, blockchain technology will unfold substantial technological advances in health care e-commerce in the coming years.
Yet another report — from BIS Research — claims that blockchain technology will be used for commercial purposes in 55% of all health care applications by 2025. The same report also stats that blockchain's share of the health care market will bump up to $5.61 billion USD from $170 million USD.
Multi-channel health care is a multifaceted approach that delivers a seamless experience to consumers using online technology. Customers may access websites through multiple devices, including smartphones, computers, and tablets, or through physical shops. Ultimately, omnichannel health care will be the leading trend in medical e-commerce.
- AR and VR
According to a recent report, worldwide investment in virtual reality and augmented reality in health care will reach $5.1 billion USD by 2025! Virtual reality has become the dominant trend in the online healthcare market. SMBs and large companies alike are counting on virtual reality to be the next big thing in health care.
To conclude, there are most definitely two forces at work — e-commerce and health care — that, when combined, can make the magic happen … as long as merchants proceed with caution and creative thinking.
Businesses that want to thrive in this market still have a long way to go. So, are you ready to take the challenge?