(Alarm ringing continuously)
It’s early morning. Eyes closed, hand searches the bed for the source of the sound. The alarm is still ringing. There is a heaviness in the head. The feeling of being one with the bed seems very comfortable. But the annoying sound is ringing in your head. It is like a drill through the thick concrete skull, penetrating with each second. The pain is only increasing.
Where is the phone? With great difficulty, one eyelid opens. The sound is coming from the phone across the bed, in the table where all the electronics are placed. The legs won’t move. It feels like a black hole is pulling you towards it, and the body won’t budge.
The alarm sound, that’s been drilling into the skull penetrates. There is a sudden realization.
You are SICK.
We have all been there. But we never expect or prepare for this moment. Being sick is the most uncomfortable position one can find themselves to be. You soldier on. But you know you need medical attention. You turn off the alarm and go back to bed.
The most difficult part of being sick is getting out of bed. With the fast-paced lives, we all live in, nobody can afford to sleep in without consequences. You make the decision to see a doctor. This is when one comes to realize the problems in getting healthcare access. You need to find the right doctor and fix an appointment to meet him.
What could go wrong? It’s a done deal right. You have an appointment to see the doctor. You should be in and out of the hospital in 20 mins. If only this was true. India has an acute shortage of doctors and an abundance of patients. You will inevitably spend an hour or more waiting for your consultation.
Now that the consultation is done, you want the medicines the doctor has prescribed to you.
There is a big line in front of the pharmacy.
Just to know if the medicine which the doctor has prescribed is available in this pharmacy, you need to wait for a minimum of 15 mins. You would not believe the national data on prescription fulfillment by pharmacies indicates only 60% of the time a patient has a probability of getting the required medicines in a single visit. If the medicine is not available, you would have to search for nearby pharmacies on the internet, call them and verify if the medicine is available and then visit that store to buy.
Sounds stressful, doesn’t? I can assure you, I have not exaugurated any situation in the above scenario. This is the plight of patients in India. This is what they go through every day. Every reader of this article would have faced this exact situation more than 10 times in their lives.
Given the day and age we live in, the above scenario looks so solvable and your brain must be thinking, surely there is someone who has solved this problem by now. Well, the answer is No. There is no single simple solution to this problem. The patients have two option right now.
Do the search and visit stores to find the medicine.
Buy medicine online
Looking at the above scenario, online pharmacies feel like the right choice, doesn’t it? But there are enough problems with online pharmacies too.
Let us understand the purchase dynamics in India. There are two categories of patients. Patients who need medical intervention immediately and make the visit to the hospital or their nearby doctor to get treated, commonly known as acute. Then there are patients who are diagnosed with disease already and the recovery or the maintenance of the disease condition is required, commonly known as chronic.
Let’s break it down in relatable terms. If a person suffers from Cold, Flu, Diarrhea etc., would need medical attention immediately and also treatment time will be short and curable. In this scenario, this would be an Acute patient. If a person suffers from diabetes, hypertension, Arthritis etc., Would need longer medical treatment plans and disease maintenance and recovery is not immediate. In this case, would be a chronic patient.
The major factors influencing the purchase decision are,
- Time- Need medicine immediately
- Cost of medicine
- Availability nearby
- No substitutes
- Order Value less than 300 INR
- Discount offered
- Customer relations
- Convenience of delivery
- Order Value usually more than 500 INR
Online pharmacies are a great means for chronic patients to buy medicines as they do not have the urgency for immediate delivery. Then there are the discount advantages.
What are the challenges then?
- Stock availability is a big concern in the pharmacy supply chain. There has always been a demand and supply gap. This is still a concern as it will impact the delivery time.
- For 1 chronic patient, there are 9 acute patients in India. Thereby their ideal customer base is smaller.
- Average order value. Online pharmacies need a minimum order value to turn a profit. Though the deliveries are free of cost now. This situation will change in a very short period.
- The cold chain medicines. Items that require to be maintained in cold chain will be tougher to deliver overnight.
- This does not solve the day to day patient needs, but only increases their issues.
Offline Pharmacies though address the above challenges are not patient friendly. They also have the stock availability issues, lack of discounts and is increasingly difficult to navigate for a patient.
The Ideal solution for addressing the patients acute needs is a simple solution. Offline pharmacies enabled with technology to quickly respond and aggregate orders online.
The answer is SYMPILL.
I personally tried this app and I can say this is the best solution one can have. So Let me tell you what exactly this app does.
An app that can easily help patients search for their medicines from the nearby pharmacies, based on their location. And which helps them places an order for them to pick up the medicine from the pharmacies. And all this within 15mins of the prescription being generated.
How is SYMPILL solving the challenges?
- Stock availability. Sympill connects with all the pharmacies within a 3km radius of the patient’s location, thereby eliminating the dependencies of a single source for medicines. With as many as 15-20 stores being connected to, the chances of stock not being available is eliminated.
- Acute patients: Since the entire process of stock availability and order placement is done in real time from nearby stores, the patient can find the correct store that has the medicines with preferable discounts to pick up the medicine from. Saving time and money.
- The best part is there is there is No minimum order. No delivery charges.
Click here to download the app from the Android Play Store.
To answer the question if the offline pharmacies are obsolete. The answer is NO. Offline pharmacies with a little bit of help from technology can easily help many patients by becoming more patient friendly.
Offline pharmacies are essential as they are the backbone of the Indian Pharmacy Market. Online pharmacies have been in the market for the last 5 years have gained only 1% of the market share.
This alone is credential enough for the offline pharmacies to continue serving the patients. With Sympill, offline pharmacies can extend their patient base and improve their business by nearly 20% month on month.
The only question to be answered here is, are offline pharmacies willing to use technology? Or they will continue being archaic and complaining about newer companies taking up their market share?
Patients need the support of technology and are more than willing to try out any solution that will help them. It is high time that the offline pharmacy community wakes up and answers to what the patients want. Patients can no longer be taken for granted by rude pharmacists and unnecessary trips to multiple pharmacies is simply not acceptable anymore.