Pandemic Impact: How E-Commerce Is Influencing Healthcare

Kunal is Mumbai based entrepreneur, who has pursued Masters in Marketing & Strategies from University of Warwick and evolved as knowledge able techie with over 7 years of experience

There is no denying the fact that e-Commerce has only bolstered its position and influenced consumer decisions significantly since the pandemic happened. With the restrictions on movement and a large number of people suffering from chronic diseases dependent on medicines regularly, e-Commerce platforms rose up to the occasion to meet the healthcare needs of India's billion-plus population. Neigh bourhood pharmacies may remain a solace to share a word, but consumer preference has clearly tilted towards things getting delivered at home. It is for this reason that public private partnerships (PPP) like the one between Practo and Thyrocare to conduct COVID-19 tests, authorised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), are growing. Between October and December last year, the year-on-year (YOY) volume of FMCG & Healthcare (F& H) category grew by 46 percent, as per the Q4 2020 e-Commerce Trends Report by Unicommerce and Kearney. Not only in urban areas but also in semi-urban and rural areas the use of e-Commerce for healthcare is growing. The report states Tier-II & III cities accounted for a 90 percent YOY incremental volume and value growth.

Benefits Of Growing E-Com Influence In Healthcare
Availability of a Wide Variety of Authentic Products:Buying medical supplies before pandemic was equivalent to negotiating a long and often confusing supply chain. Shopping online saves that trouble as well as that of visiting multiple stores to look for products that are both affordable and reliable. e-Commerce platforms provide services where one can compare a wide variety of the same product and their prices with features. This empowers the consumers to no end as they are equipped to make an informed buying decision. Trusted online platforms also allow verified consumers to leave their feedback, so that people can learn from their experience. This also has a say in maintaining the reputation of the product wherein the potential buyer comes to know whether the product is good or bad.

Convenience:This is among the top reasons why e-Commerce platforms are fast becoming reliable options irrespective of the urban-rural divide. It has changed the way people buy healthcare products and them reaching to the customers. Several companies are leveraging this ease of purchase service introduced by e-Commerce platforms to create a business model that ensures fast doorstep delivery, live assistance to answer questions among others, and to create a loyal customer base.

Care at Ease:When hospitals were flooded with COVID patients, e-Commerce platforms introduced features that provided the much needed `care'. Right from consultation with doctors to delivery of prescribed medicines. An integrated model of caregiving, at times in lieu of a subscription fee, is fast becoming a standard. By delivering both value and care, e-Commerce platforms have become an integral part of the society, especially among people who stay away from their elderly or unwell parents and relatives.

Competitive Cost:Due to the fewer number of intermediaries the prices of products online, are lower than the physical market. They are also more transparent than the physical stores, so that the consumers can compare the prices across the range of available sellers on such platforms. Since there is no compulsion to maintain a shop, retailers often choose to transfer the monetary benefit of significantly lower fixed cost to the customers. Subsequently, e-Commerce platforms are more frequent in doling out discounts and refunds, rarely available in physical stores.

Availability of Critical & Lesser-known Services:While patients suffering from potentially fatal, chronic diseases suffered the most. Hence, urgent help and a clear telemedicine guideline suffice the problem during the pandemic. Hospitals for faster delivery of healthcare used telemedicine solutions to offer lesser known but vital services such as paramedics, critical care, and many more. The use of what can be termed as para telemedicine not only ensured timely treatment, but also reduced the cost and helped people avoid unnecessary travel during the pandemic.