The role of e-commerce has in transforming every aspect of the business world cannot be denied. E-commerce, or transactions that take place remotely via the Internet, has shifted business processes in every part of our lives, from casual online shopping to social networking, online banking, and artificial intelligence. The last frontier for e-commerce, according to Forbes, is the healthcare industry.
In an America where 25% of families put off doctor’s visits when they can’t afford them, healthcare has become pricey and only used when the opportunity cost isn’t too high. However, e-commerce brings notable advantages to the healthcare industry, making healthcare more accessible for all Americans.
E-commerce has the opportunity to revolutionize healthcare as it has done in vastly different industries. In many ways, it already has changed healthcare drastically. With platforms like Doctor on Demand and other similar applications, it is clear that e-commerce is changing our image of traditional healthcare. In addition to increasing access, e-commerce in healthcare can increase efficiency, lower costs, and ultimately lead to healthier (and happier) patients.
First and foremost, e-commerce is greatly benefiting the general public’s ability to access information. With greater transparency regarding their health, patients can work in conjunction with their doctors to make more informed decisions regarding their healthcare. For instance, many patients are turning to review sites like Yelp to share comments about their experiences with physicians. Patients often comment not just on the quality of care and health outcomes but the “bedside manner” of physicians as well. Thus, physicians must take seriously the role e-commerce will play in transforming healthcare as we know it and maintain a good online reputation.
E-commerce has also increased access to healthcare in general. Since e-commerce focuses on remote transactions between physician and patient, consumers don’t have to be anywhere near physicians’ offices in order to access healthcare. To be specific, Americans in rural areas are benefitting the most from the technologically-savvy healthcare industry, especially when they are located in so-called medical deserts, far from medical services anywhere.
E-commerce also has a notable effect on the efficiency in healthcare. When non-emergency patients are diverted from doctors’ offices and hospitals to online opportunities, those in greater need of hospital resources are able to get the care they require. These resources include physical medical tools and items, but also the precious time of physicians and other medical staff. This increased efficiency can be a great boon to the medical industry, helping understaffed and understocked doctors’ offices and hospitals as well as saving lives.
Working in conjunction with the increased efficiency brought by e-commerce, healthcare costs could be lowered for many as well. According to one site, online visits can be half the price or less of office visits, and the difference is even greater with urgent care visits. The difference in cost can be very appealing to Americans who don’t have access to health insurance or have a low income.
When lowered costs and efficiency are taken together, it will lead to healthier patients and ultimately a healthier America. In particular, if e-commerce can lower the number of families who put off healthcare visits due to costs, we have much to look forward to. When more individuals and families can afford doctor visits and checkups, a healthier populace will be the result.
Though there are many important and influential advantages to the application of e-commerce in healthcare, there are some notable disadvantages as well. We must consider the influence of e-commerce and increased technology in the medical industry on the security of highly sensitive patient information, patients’ rights, and the doctor-patient relationship.
One of the primary concerns with greater technology in the medical industry is the security of sensitive medical information. E-commerce providers and doctors should work together to make sure all patient information is stored correctly, accessed only by the correct individuals, and protected from cyber attacks, such as through the creation of industry standards and cybersecurity programs. Furthermore, all platforms should immediately track who accesses, inserts, and changes patient medical data.
It is vital for e-commerce providers, doctors, and consumers to be aware of patient rights. Providers and doctors must safeguard patient information and privacy in accordance with federal regulations, especially when the information is accessed and stored remotely. Tiered protection is important, and includes technical, physical, and administrative safeguards that focus on security for patients and their information. For example, a technical safeguard would be an authentication lock that has been put in place for access control.
The Doctor-Patient Relationship
One of the less technical disadvantages of e-commerce in the healthcare industry is the effect on the doctor-patient relationship. The relationship between doctors and patients is vital and the trust that can be cultivated between the two parties can directly lead to better health outcomes. However, e-commerce loses the face-to-face aspect of office visits that foster this relationship. It is important that e-commerce providers encourage this relationship through their platform and that online doctors take the time to get to know their patients as people rather than just as consumers of a service.
Ultimately, the effect of e-commerce in the healthcare industry is largely positive. The growth of technology in this sector has led to increased efficiency, lower costs, and greater access to healthcare for the general public — leading to happier patients! Though there are some challenges to overcome, such as security, HIPAA regulations, and maintaining the doctor-patient relationship, the future still looks bright for healthcare.