Imagine a world where a few taps on your smartphone help you manage your health. Online or e-pharmacies are making this dream a reality by reshaping how we approach and understand our health and medication habits. These online platforms are more than just convenient storefronts — they are leading a revolution in healthcare accessibility and consumer education.

Akshat Nayyar _ CEO Truemeds (1)

Gone are the days when consumers blindly followed medications based on prescriptions, with little knowledge or control over the process. Thanks to the wealth of information available online, from blogs to review platforms, we are far more aware now of our rights as consumers and are making informed choices about everything – from the food we eat to the skincare products we use. A recently found study by Bain & Co. on Asia-Pacific Front Line of Healthcare 2024 also states that Healthcare is no longer a passive experience: Consumers are taking charge of their health, are demanding a better experience, and are willing to invest in wellness.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for this shift, forcing people to embrace e-commerce and online services out of sheer necessity. Even in smaller cities and suburbs, where the adoption of e-commerce might have otherwise been slower, the pandemic drove people to explore online shopping for essentials, including medicines. This shift towards e-pharmacies has continued to spike as these platforms bridge the gap in accessible and affordable healthcare.

In fact, the Bain & Co. study also found that consumers desire a single touchpoint to manage their health and are increasingly placing high trust in primary care providers and other alternative sites of care like pharmacies and digital health. While face-to-face interactions are more commonly preferred, the pandemic has increased acceptance of virtual touchpoints. Consumers expect seamless, omnichannel care experiences that extend beyond traditional hospital settings.

In India alone, there are over 50 e-pharmacy startups, serving around 5 million users every month with reasonably priced, high-quality medicines. The growth is fueled by rising education levels, increased consumer rights awareness, higher disposable incomes, and urbanization-driven lifestyle changes. Key to this is digital inclusion, as the internet and smartphones have reached a significant portion of the population. E-pharmacies are now a rage in Tier II and Tier III cities, where they are the source of reliable delivery of essential medicines.

Why are e-pharmacies trending?

E-pharmacies are rapidly becoming popular because they cater to the modern consumer’s demand for convenience, accessibility, and personalised experiences. In today’s fast-paced world, the hassle of traditional medication procurement processes—from scheduling appointments to purchasing medicines—is becoming increasingly unappealing. E-pharmacies offer a seamless alternative. They allow people to manage their healthcare needs from the comfort of their homes or on the go.

That’s not all. These pharmacies offer a level of privacy. For instance, patients with sensitive health issues can conveniently order medications online. Customers can also rest assured that their medical information and purchase history stay confidential. This prevents any unnecessary embarrassment and helps patients take charge of their healthcare needs without fear.

User-friendly interfaces also make e-pharmacy platforms accessible for all and, therefore, make them a hit among consumers. Intuitive features like prescription uploads in simple language and even local dialect. The helpful prompts and user-friendly chatbots for assistance. This attention to ease of use helps users of all ages and tech skills, including the elderly. Moreover, e-pharmacies also ensure that there are no counterfeits or expired drugs through stringent verification processes and inventory management.

However, the biggest draw of e-pharmacies lies in the convenience they offer. Reminder features ensure that users stay on top of their treatment plans. They can easily track past orders, further helping them to take control of their healthcare needs from the comfort of their homes. Hence, offering “one-stop shop” solutions for all their needs, leveraging tech capabilities for better patient engagement. The survey also suggests that in the future, the proportion of consumers willing to seek pharmacy-provided healthcare may increase to 73% (82% in Gen Z) in the presence of partnerships between pharmacies and other healthcare providers, including clinics or specialists.

E-pharmacies are also ushering in a new era of transparency and cost savings in the healthcare sector. Pricing information is readily available on their platforms, and customers can compare options and choose the most affordable solutions for their prescription needs. This newfound transparency helps users make informed decisions and access the best deals. The survey also stated that telehealth led to major saving of healthcare costs due to the early triage and steerage care coupled with the low price point and pharmacy attach rate for teleconsultation compared to in-person primary consultation.

With digital technologies continuing to impact every aspect of our lives, the e-pharmacy model aligns perfectly with the growing consumer preference for seamless, tech-enabled services that put their needs and experiences at the forefront.

Future outlook

As India navigates the changing healthcare landscape, e-pharmacies can bridge the gap in medication access, especially in smaller, less connected regions. However, clear regulations are imperative to ensure consumer safety and fairness for all stakeholders.

Moreover, as the Indian government continues to push for digital transformation in the healthcare sector, e-pharmacies are likely to receive more support and recognition in the future. Clear and robust regulations will be instrumental in building trust among consumers, ensuring safety and promoting fairness for all stakeholders involved.

As technology progresses and consumer preferences shift towards digitized solutions, e-pharmacies will drive a paradigm shift in India’s healthcare landscape. They will empower consumers to take control of their health and reshape medication habits for the better.