For those not closely watching Amazon’s every move, it would have been easy to miss the retailer’s quiet entry into the healthcare space. Amazon hasn’t unveiled formal plans just yet, and a high number of healthcare regulations mean change won’t happen overnight. However, Amazon’s procurement of pharmacy licenses to become a wholesale distributor in 12 states indicates that the company is gathering the building blocks required for a seat at tomorrow’s healthcare table.
This venture is a logical next step as Amazon continues to involve itself in every facet of consumers’ lives and wallets. Amazon’s move into healthcare actually looks quite similar to its recent investments in grocery via acquisition of Whole Foods.
Like grocery, healthcare is a vertical with high-potential for profitability and a need for disruption. Amazon’s insider knowledge of e-commerce makes it the perfect candidate to offer more diverse healthcare experiences to customers. Thanks to its advanced infrastructure and delivery mechanisms like regional warehouses and same-day promises, Amazon has the blueprints to make online healthcare work at scale. Likewise, Amazon’s documented mastery of large inventories makes it well suited to manage the hundreds of thousands of healthcare products at market.
So with Amazon’s seemingly imminent foray into healthcare, other players in the industry will need to traverse the unique regulatory and logistical challenges of going digital in order to maintain their share of the market.
Areas of focus for healthcare providers going digital
The healthcare industry has energy building around digital advancements and has begun to incorporate the channel to solve for certain needs. For example, consumers can already track their healthcare records digitally or schedule doctor’s appointments on their smartphones. CVS’ planned rollout of same-day prescription drug delivery in select cities is another indication of the way digital is transforming the customer/patient experience in the healthcare industry.
Overall, both healthcare organizations and patients are becoming more comfortable with digital touch points. Today’s healthcare providers have a tremendous opportunity to shape and master what their industry’s digital experiences will look like in the future. As Amazon raises the bar for user experiences, healthcare companies will either grow to match, or be pushed toward obsolescence. This predicament results in better interactions for consumers and is a wakeup call for today’s healthcare providers.
So, what should healthcare players be focusing their investments as they shift toward digital?
Trusted product content
Digital pharmaceutical sales will raise the product content stakes far beyond what consumers are used to with more common e-commerce purchases like clothing and home goods. Receiving the wrong medication is not always a matter of life or death, but it’s certainly worse than a shopper receiving the wrong sized t-shirt.
With no wiggle room, accurate and trusted product content will prove crucial for long-term digital healthcare success. Fortunately for healthcare providers, a history of industry regulatory oversight means they already have a lot of this content in place. The next order of business is aggregating and cleaning up that data, making sure it’s easy to share across all channels, and that the information consumers see is consistent at every touch point.
This demands a single-source of product content that guarantees accurate information no matter where customers are purchasing. Likewise, because healthcare involves a variety of organizations, insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceutical developers and more, housing all product content in one place ensures that only authorized people are posting the correct content.
Healthcare providers must also address consumers’ increased calls for product transparency, while recognizing that the average person does not understand the content found on a prescription label. It’s up to healthcare providers to develop more consumer-friendly descriptions and definitions of drugs.
Supply chain logistics
Another question healthcare providers must answer is how they will facilitate the fulfillment and delivery of healthcare products. Can an Amazon delivery person leave a prescription at a shopper’s door? How will the government regulate controlled substances when it comes to digital pharmacies and home delivery? Issues like these are some of the biggest risks providers could face in going digital.
Ultimately, healthcare providers will need to develop digital systems capable of tracking every single order from purchase to delivery. Given the level of granularity healthcare regulatory standards require, providers will also need to institute smart inventory systems that offer a holistic view into transactions across all digital touch points in real time. When life-saving medicines are at play, shoppers cannot afford discrepancies in what’s available for purchase on different channels.
Focusing on these three areas will help healthcare providers build trust with shoppers and position themselves to compete in the digital age.
As healthcare stakeholders push for these changes, they can also gain confidence knowing that time is on their side. Everyday, technology becomes a more important part of consumers’ lives, and it’s only a matter of time before more people are comfortable using digital in more diverse and personal ways – including healthcare. This is especially true of younger generations, who will offer an unprecedented fluency and comfort level with digital experiences as they age into purchasing position for their healthcare needs. In the same way that now widely accepted retail e-commerce practices once felt like a strange possibility, digitized healthcare will one day overcome its growing pains and earn mainstream popularity.
Dan Wilkinson is the CCO of 1WorldSync.
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