The nearly $4 trillion U.S. healthcare system these days is costing consumers a lot more out-of-pocket to pay for doctor visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs and a wide range of other related healthcare products and services.
But even as consumers pay more for healthcare, they also are shifting more of their shopping and spending online. In 2017, the 200 largest online retailers of prescription drugs and healthcare supplies and equipment ranked by Internet Health Management in its 2018 Healthcare E-Commerce Report collectively generated online sales of $11.47 billion, up 16.2% from combined web sales of $9.87 billion in 2016.
That growth rate is 8.1 times faster than total retail sales of prescription drugs, healthcare equipment and supplies, and related products, which in 2017 grew about 2% to $610.3 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The growth in healthcare e-commerce sales also is right in line with the increase in all U.S. e-commerce sales of 16% to $453.5 billion in 2017 from $391.0 billion in 2016 and grew 3.7 times faster than all retail sales, which grew 4.5% to $5.08 trillion last year from $4.86 trillion in 2016, says the Department of Commerce.
The market is poised for substantial growth based on a range of factors included a big shift to more consumer spending on a wide and growing variety of healthcare treatments, products and services, the continued rollout of more web-based healthcare delivery and because consumers continue to pay even more out-of-pocket for health insurance and medical care of all kinds.
Consumers also prefer managing more of their healthcare business affairs and health and wellness online, especially using apps and a mobile device. The percentage of consumers using mobile and tablet health apps has tripled over the past four years, from 16% in 2014 to 48% today, says a recent survey of 2,300 consumers by Accenture Consulting.
The use of patient portals is on the rise with more than four in 10 respondents (44%) using a portal to access their electronic health records (EHRs) over the past year, primarily to get information on lab and blood-test results, Accenture says.
67% of consumers have used a portal in the past year and their main reason for doing so was to access their EHR to check out a lab result. Other reasons consumers used health portals was to view physician notes regarding medical visits (55%) and view their prescription history (41%).
Similarly, the use of wearable devices by consumers has nearly quadrupled in the past four years, from just 9% in 2014 to 33% in 2017. Three-fourths of consumers view wearables—such as those that monitor glucose, heart rate, physical activity and sleep—as beneficial to understanding their health condition, 73% say it helps them engage with their health and the same percentage cite monitoring the health of a loved one, Accenture says
More consumers now see digital and web technology as part of getting and using healthcare services. For example, 75% of consumers see technology as an important component of managing their health, according to the Accenture survey.
Digital technology also is changing how consumers shop for prescription drugs and healthcare equipment and supplies online—and what they expect in the way of a superior user experience from web merchants.
Today, patients want their digital dealings with healthcare providers, insurers and merchants to be easy, convenient, speedy, personal and mobile. For example, 66% of consumers would consider seeing a doctor online and even more consumers would prefer a video doctor’s visit if the visit resulted in a faster prescription refill, according to a recent survey of 2,100 consumers by Harris Poll and telehealth services provider American Well.
Digital technology also is changing how consumers shop online for prescription drugs and healthcare equipment and supplies—and what they expect in the way of a superior user experience from web merchants. Are web and omnichannel healthcare merchants delivering on those expectations?
Many merchants are, and the 67-page 2018 Healthcare E-Commerce Report produced by Internet Health Management and Internet Retailer, both members of the Digital Commerce 360 family of e-commerce research products, is filled with best practice data, analysis and case studies that explain how merchants such as PillPack, Capsule and Betty Mills are meeting customer expectations through excellent website design, customer service and systems integration strategies and programs.
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