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    Digital Healthcare Platforms And Online Pharmacies: A New Frontier Of E-commerce

    Digital Healthcare Platforms And Online Pharmacies: A New Frontier Of E-commerce

    With the NHS struggling to cope with the rising demands of an ailing and ageing population and the rise of digital diagnoses and virtual consultations, there is a new opportunity within the health industry.

    From digital health monitoring to prescriptions at the click of a button, we take a look at how e-commerce in healthcare is impacting health opportunities and outcomes for patients.

    The rise of healthcare e-commerce

    In a digital world, consumers are accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it. People are used to researching a product, from a pair of shoes to a house, online and, in the case of shoes, it being on their doorstep within 24 hours without them leaving the house.  At a time when delays in GP appointments, shortages of medication are prevalent, and consumers want to take a more active role in their own health and wellbeing, the healthcare is ripe for a digital transformation.

    Healthcare e-commerce has seen rapid growth in recent years, with the global market size growing from $366.94 billion to $434.88 billion in the last year. And while the global COVID-19 pandemic forced people to use online consultations or turn to online pharmacy, the convenience of that practice from the patient’s side and efficiency from the healthcare providers meant that the practice is very much here to stay.

    The impact of e-commerce: streamlining practices

    Where online consultations were once a forced practice in order to control the spread of the coronavirus, in today’s high-demand world, it has become the norm. Online consultations allow for streamlined symptom taking and triage via a range of methods including chatbots, online messaging, questionnaires and videos. As more medical practices are turning to these platforms to help them to effectively handle increasing numbers of appointment requests and while tackling waiting time targets, patients will vote with their feet, taking their custom to practices that are able to serve them best within their community.

    e-commerce and the impact on patient choice

    There was a time when patients had two choices: to access their local General Practice for routine health issues, or emergency care for emergencies via the NHS, or go private. The private healthcare route has traditionally been preserved for the wealthy or those with competitive employment packages. However, as the healthcare industry enters the world of e-commerce, there is a third choice for patients. Online pharmacies such as Oxford Online Pharmacy offer free consultations and quick turnaround; some even guarantee next day delivery. For little more than the cost of an NHS prescription, patients can avoid the 8am scramble for even a telephone appointment with their GP or Practice Nurse, and get the medication they need without waiting for the prescription to be filled by a third party pharmacy.

    The impact of e-commerce on health

    e-commerce isn’t just improving how patients are treated and by whom, it is helping the population to take control of their health in a mode that suits them. The rise of healthcare platforms is causing people to be more cognisant of their health and well-being, from BMI to sleep, exercise to water intake. Fitbit, Apple Health and My Fitness Pal are household staples that are making individuals more aware of the impact of simple daily activities on their broader health. Many people are considering water intake or tracking their heart rate and sleep patterns, allowing them to become active agents of their own health and wellbeing.

    Platforms such as Zoe take this tracking one step further with bespoke analysis and recommendations to help individuals to optimise their health.

    What does the rise of e-commerce in healthcare mean for us?

    e-commerce and the rise of AI are transforming the way that we live, work, shop, eat and, now, take care of ourselves. For consumers, the impact can only be positive. As general practices strive to compete with each other at the same time as they are trying to save money and meet increasingly challenging targets, digital organisations are offering evermore complex and intelligent solutions to make that process easier. For patients, this will mean shorter wait times, more convenient appointment systems, and more accessible information for routine and emergency healthcare. The rise of e-commerce also gives patients the gift of choice. Rather than being prescribed a drug that is the sole one on offer by a practice, patients can research the different drugs available via different online pharmacies before undertaking an online consultation and getting those drugs (prescribed or over-the-counter) sent direct to them.

    The new era of e-commerce in healthcare means that people don’t have to choose between increasingly strained NHS services and elite private healthcare; there is a middle ground that not only allows people to access healthcare, but it enables them to take greater control over their own health and improve their health outcomes through tailored platforms that meet their needs.

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