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Organised E-pharmacy Increases Safety & Transparency

A common misconception behind the authenticity of operations of an e-pharmacy is prevalent because there is skeptical knowledge behind the legal business modelsvis a vis the illegal international trade of drugs online

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

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The online sale of medicines is fast catching up in India with the e-commerce pharmacies simplifying medical distribution.With progressive technology models, and information technology impacting the lives of millions of people, many industries have embraced benefits of automated information processing including the healthcare space in the form of e-pharmacy.

With a high shout out for Make In India and Digital India, Healthcare Startups have combined the two to revolutionize E-healthcare. Because of the lack of consumer awareness and myths and misconceptions regarding their operations, the e-pharmacy space is facing crucial transformation crossroads at the moment.

Understanding the right process behind the model and technology

A common misconception behind the authenticity of operations of an e-pharmacy is prevalent because there is skeptical knowledge behind the legal business modelsvis a vis the illegal international trade of drugs online.

In illegal trading of drugs, medicines are shipped from one place to another without any valid prescriptions or approval from concerned authorities. Because of this there is there is no check on the genuineness of the order due to absence of qualified pharmacists.

Organized e-pharmacy model on the other hand are companies which are adhering to all the rules and regulations put forth by the government taking into account proper record management as well as validation of all prescriptions uploaded on their platforms. This model either connects neighborhood licensed pharmacies to the end user or it operates as an inventory-based model where e-pharmacy is an online service of an offline licensed pharmacy.

In an organized e-pharmacy platform every order is screened and checked at the backend by a team of registered pharmacists who validate the authenticity of every prescription which is uploaded. Moreover because of the technology integrated with their process, they can sustain proper data management of every order ensuring that the drugs are not being misused in any way. Some organized e-pharmacies are now also using the help of intelligent combination of data analytics and algorithms to enable automatic customer profiling by capturing very localized data of supply and demand thus enabling big data analytics on individual customers of any area. This technology is not only redefining end to end solutions in the e-pharmacy space but is also strengthening the logistics and supply chain issues of independent micro pharmacies pan India.

Benefits of organized E-pharmacy to system
A proper organized e-pharmacy model can efficiently help in meeting the objective of healthcare in India in multiple ways.Right from offering consumer convenience in terms of ordering medicines from the comfort of your homes ,affordable generic options and discounts to patients in critical need to easy consumer access to hard to find medicines, online pharmacies have the potential to revolutionize the healthcare needs of consumers in the country. With full tracking systems and solid technology backend, e-pharmacies are reducing working capital requirements, removing wastage from system while increasing margins and making the industry sustainable.
Challenges

At a time when the medicinal e-commerce market is growing, there are still a number of hindrances it has to overcome to reach its full potential.

Regulatory hurdles

Online players are facing opposition from offline chemists and are under constant scrutiny of regulators regarding drug prescription and safety and transparency concerns when it comes to the online model. Despite the fact that startups are following a strict guideline when it comes to uploading prescriptions, unless the system is streamlined for online players, they will continue to struggle to convert orders into sales and be caught in a vicious operating cycle.

In the absence of a defined regulatory structure, online players at the moment are spending a significant chunk of their investments on only improving patient awareness of proper prescriptions. From battling and catering to changing guidelines of prescription drugs in different parts of the country to increasing awareness in the customer ecosystem, e-pharmacies are currently adapting their business models in an unstable business environment to make their business viable.

Different standards for online vs offline: Everyone knows how pharmacies operate in India. Most do not have a pharmacist on premises, they generally do not ask for prescription, dispense without bill and substitute medicines openly. Because organized online pharmacies are more visible to the law makers they are expected to adhere to all key provisions stated by the law to the letter. On the other hand offline chemists are given the levy to operate in the same manner as they have been doing without much scrutiny. In such cases, if the offline context was equally enforced, then transactions would move online at a much faster pace.

Vested Interests/ Lobby groups: This industry is heavily unionized and the industry association of pharmacies actively opposes any new models. These groups are actively working towards blocking new entrants into the ecosystem, stifling price competition and actively dissuading pharmacies from working with e-pharmacies. Lack of awareness amongst small vendors is leading them to hamper their own potential in terms of increasing their market outreach by tying up with an organized scale player

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Tags assigned to this article:
e-pharmacy healthcare drugmakers technology

Siddharth Singhal

The author is founder of Vibcare Solutions

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