Editor’s note: In the article, Peter answers how to organize an ecommerce solution effectively depending on the type of medicine to sell. If you are planning to move your pharmaceutical business online too, the help of ScienceSoft’s ecommerce consulting team will be valuable.
The pharmaceutical segment is not the largest in the US ecommerce market. But the COVID situation showed clearly an extreme vulnerability of consumer companies dependent solely upon traditional footfall. I, therefore, expect more medical companies to go digital shortly, pharmacies among other healthcare ecommerce business types.
The transition online will require you to rethink your business processes, and within the next few minutes, I will help set the direction for your new online business model. I adjust an ecommerce website to the specifics of online pharmacies. Choose the article part dedicated to the type of drugs you sell and feel free to contact our team if you need deeper professional engagement in your business.
- Selling prescription medicine
- Selling over-the-counter medicine
- Selling prescription and over-the-counter medicine
You may assume an idea of selling prescribed drugs online as risky for it requires from you:
- Compliance with governmental regulations.
- Creation of a trusted online environment.
- Strict control over the legitimacy of medical needs and, hence, sold medicines.
- A possibility to accept e-prescriptions.
You settle the first two questions by getting proper accreditation. NABP, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, investigates and confirms the compliance of online pharmacies to nationally endorsed standards of pharmacy practice. Seeing the NABP badge on your website, customers will feel secured against counterfeit pills.
We at ScienceSoft usually help solve the remaining challenges with a custom ecommerce website. Implementation approaches may vary depending on your business goals.
Setting a subscription-based model
This model suits you the best if your business targets patients with regular medical needs. Scheduled delivery of prescribed medicine is a great helper for customers receiving long-term treatment or managing chronic diseases and takes off the stress of timely refills critical for a health condition. I personally see this opportunity as an evolution of pharmacy business as it takes the patient care to a new level.
In this case, no product catalog is needed. A user journey to implement on the website unfolds as follows: a user registers on the website, submits payment details and needed medical records (medical insurance number, doctor’s information). As an online pharmacy, you always need an original prescription to prevent its reuse, so offer users either mail or hand it over in-person. Alternatively and more conveniently for your customers, you can install e-prescribing software to receive and process e-prescriptions directly from doctors.
Technically, customers don’t place orders – your team processes the prescription and chooses a medicine brand and manufacturer based on the user’s medical insurance and the stock available. Then, a schedule for recurrent delivery is set.
Take a look at the PillPack website to see this user journey in action.
Setting a personalized user journey
From ScienceSoft’s experience, I assume this model suits better niche pharmacies with rather limited medicine choice. It implies that users register and submit medical data as the first step. During the next visit and after their records have been processed and approved, they access only the selection of medicines and their quantity prescribed for their ailment. Thus, medication misuse or overuse are reliably prevented.
With over-the-counter drugs, you can apply a standard ecommerce implementation model enabling proper management of a product catalog, promotions, checkout, payment and orders. When you sell over-the-counter pills online, you don’t have to impose strict control over prescription validity. Still, don’t distance yourself from any responsibility for medicine use – excessive or incorrect medication may cause adverse effects and be health-threatening. I recommend the following measures to protect your customers’ health:
- Give the fullest medicine description on the website: indications and precautions, ingredients, usage directions, possible side effects.
- Restrict the amount of medicine to order.
Technical questions settled, I must mention one business challenge to face – quick delivery of small-volume orders is required, which may question its cost-effectiveness. Of course, you can always get the delivery cost up, but your customers may just as easily buy from your competitors who offer better delivery terms. Rather than playing with delivery prices, I suggest addressing the challenge at the strategic level. You can consider extending your product portfolio and offering personal care and household cleaning supplies. To get the idea illustrated, check how Well.ca offers to their customers both health and wellness products.
On a single website, you need to separate two scenarios of user journeys: for purchasing over-the-counter items and for ordering regulated prescription drugs. Your ecommerce solution must include:
- Product catalog with items available for all users: over-the-counter medicine, wellness and beauty goods, household and pet supplies.
- Integration with an e-prescribing solution to manage prescription medication.
- A custom personal account where users can track and refill both over-the-counter and prescription orders.
For example, HealthWarehouse is one of the companies that wanted to go beyond prescription pharmacy business and grew into a full-fledged provider of varied healthcare products.
Time to add E to your pharmacy business
The global e-pharmacy market is predicted to grow almost 5 times up to $128 billion by 2023. If you want to get a piece of this pie, don’t hesitate and start taking steps towards your online presence right now. Let me give you a bit of advice – for e-medical website development, choose proactive professionals with a strong consulting attitude, for it’s important to surface hidden challenges that may be critical for business success. If such cooperation model resonates with you, feel free to engage ScienceSoft’s team for the job.
Are you planning to expand your business online? We will translate your ideas into intelligent and powerful ecommerce solutions.