Digital retail garnered a lot of attention lately during the Covid-19 pandemic. During this period, even those who were not familiar with the concept of digital retail discovered that they had the convenience of buying anything online, including medicine.
Today, as Malaysia’s healthcare services go through digitalisation, you can book for doctor’s appointment, have online consultations, order medicine or receive medical advice and counselling online. Not many platforms are offering integrated healthcare services like the above, but online healthcare services are certainly gaining momentum, including online pharmacies.
Other than big pharma brands like Watson’s, Guardian and Caring, names like DoctorOnCall, Esyms, and Doctor2U may ring a bell if you are familiar with online retail pharmacies. Online pharmacies advertise, supply, dispense and sell prescribed and non-prescribed medicine, consumer healthcare products, cosmetics, diagnostic tools and more.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) drew four categories of online pharmacies, namely networks of conventional pharmacies with websites such as Guardian and Caring, specialised pharmaceutical community with webpages like AstraZeneca and DuoPharma and online websites without a physical premise like Esyms and DoctorOnCall. The fourth category is called ‘fake webpages’, which is meant to educate people against unauthorised companies or sales of pharma products especially medicines.
They also outlined 7 ways to detect an authorised online pharmacy such as registration and contact details, advertisements approved by the Medicines Advertisement Board and sale of only MOH registered products. Online pharmacies are also not allowed to sell controlled medicine, treat chronic diseases or sell medicines via social media.
If properly operated, e-pharmacies can change the healthcare landscape in Malaysia. Not only can it serve as an efficient sales and marketing platform for general healthcare products, but e-pharmacies can also revolutionise the role of pharmacists to be more consumer-centric. Here are four reasons why more e-pharmacies are needed in Malaysia.
- Greater Convenience
Digital retails is one of the fastest-growing global business trends as Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) is pushing for the adoption of digitalisation and technology usage such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, data analytics and more. With an online pharmacy, consumers are not only privy to fast and efficient services, but they are also able to access general medicine supply, purchase and delivery from the comfort of their homes.
Online pharmacies are also able to simplify the overall customer experience with features like AI Chatbots which can provide consumers with accurate or leading recommendations and analyse the data on purchasing trends and behaviours to introduce more suitable healthcare products for the community.
- Better Information Sharing – Part of the pharmacist role is to explain about a drug, possible side effects or recommend suitable drugs for general health problems. With an online pharmacy, pharmacists can produce bite-sized information about related drugs or health topics to educate the public. This can even be expanded to general or specific postings about healthcare trends, challenges, solutions and more so that consumers are well-informed about these matters.
- Wider Reach – Community pharmacists do more than just sell and advice about prescribed and generic medicines and supplements. They can also initiate health campaigns, programmes, talks and initiatives like health checks to increase community engagement and encourage healthy lifestyle practices.
- Business Sustainability – Online business has been a saving grace for many organisations, especially during tough times, due to its business model, approach and accessibility and reach
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