Co-author: Anju Bhati
I’ve always wondered, who in today’s world is not shopping online? With the latest technologies competing in every space, e-commerce has flourished at a very rapid pace. It has permeated almost all industries, including healthcare and pharma. In fact, e-commerce has made tremendous progress in the healthcare industry and over the past few years, tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and Apple have made various innovations in this space. These innovations have provided customers a novel and safe way to access healthcare tips and medicines digitally during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The use of the latest technologies can help to create a digital healthcare landscape, which is not only secure but also apt in meeting the demands of consumers. With such technologies being available on-demand, consumers are now comfortable in having their healthcare options choices fulfilled through digital marketplaces. With that said, consumers can make more informed decisions by searching for any health problem symptoms, researching for specific doctors, buying healthcare products, paying out any bills, getting more information about their options, and having more control over their healthcare choices. This creates a great opportunity for e-commerce companies and other healthcare players to move everything online and meet the growing demands of consumers.
E-commerce companies are trying their best to provide a trusted and transparent digital marketplace to both consumers and providers. To give a brief on how e-commerce companies are invading the healthcare market especially in the US and also across the globe, read below:
- Alexa– Amazon’s voice assistant technology product became HIPAA-compliant in the USA in 2019. It can now be used to transmit and receive the PHI information.
- PillPack– This is an online pharmacy service acquired by Amazon. It allows consumers to order any drugs online for which they usually would have had to visit a drug store to purchase.
- Amazon Health Insurance– Amazon has partnered with big insurance giants to provide their consumers with more choices and better health plans at a reduced cost.
- Apple Watch– Apple Watch combines personal health and wellness data with its artificial intelligence capabilities. The company has also launched online websites and mobile apps to help consumers maintain their health and take decisions accordingly.
- Google’s partnership with many companies– Google has partnered with multiple companies to research in the fields of genomics, clinical research, insurance and benefits, biomedical research, artificial intelligence solutions in healthcare, and EHR.
- Online pharmacy services– During this pandemic year, many pharmaceutical companies like 1mg, Zipdrug, Capsule, and others have hosted their services online and earned a huge customer interaction.
- Online patient ride scheduling– Ride-sharing companies like Uber have integrated their ride-sharing app into Cerner Corp.'s electronic health record system .This would allow caregivers to schedule rides for patients. Like Uber, Lyft is also entering the healthcare space by providing covered rides for eligible Medicaid beneficiaries in a few states across the United States.
E-commerce might appear to be a boon for the healthcare industry, but it does put a major risk on healthcare data. It can cause protected health information (PHI) violations if the data is not properly secured and transmitted. Also, there are nagging concerns about security, patient conﬁdentiality, and technology expenditures, especially considering that the primary user interface is a browser. With an increase in emerging technologies, e-commerce is expected to blossom since it directly tries to please the customers.
While we have talked about how e-commerce companies are bringing a revolution into the space of healthcare and digital marketplace, I often get confused with another term– commercialization of healthcare. There are many countries across the globe where government plays and controls healthcare. However, there are many countries like India and the US where the private players cover and churn out a major part of healthcare insurance. The privatization of healthcare provides more insurance options for customers but keeps other factors such as cost and reliability at the lowest priority for customers.
The commercialization of healthcare seems like a boon. But on another hand, it appears as a bane since it brings higher costs, less efficiency, less service, low-quality care, extensive bureaucracy, and more focus on profits like a business instead of quality healthcare for customers. Also, the growth of private health insurers offering plans to consumers mainly depends on how much funding and subsidies they receive through the government.
Commercialized players are categorized based on ‘for profit’ or ‘not for profit’ but in the end, both categories need support and funding from the federal government for smooth functioning and better growth. The absence of any support or funding creates more monetary burden on the government while customers are unable to enjoy the perks of privatization.
There is a need for a proven repeatable commercialization framework to ensure all the right strategies and decisions are being made at the right time to better cater to increasing consumer demands. An integrated commercialization framework with stages of early adoption, adoption network, and mainstream adoption will help to provide better quality, and a better service product in the market. Also, it will help in preserving the core values of healthcare which is supposed to be done by keeping the customer as the main focus of care rather than a business commodity.
With emerging growth in digital healthcare technologies, consumers demand more and better healthcare choices, better decision-making apps or tools, and control of their healthcare data. In the near future e-commerce companies, tech giants, and commercialized players are set to play a vital role to better meet the needs and demands of a growing population. However, innovation needs to be nurtured within the boundaries of regulations to avoid undue risks to healthcare data and security.