Pre Covid-19 era, it was business as usual for retail pharmacies in Sri Lanka. However, during the pandemic, every business including pharmaceutical retailers had to shift their paradigm from physical retailing to online means-adapting to new normal.
Sri Lanka has so far fared well in controlling the spread of COVID-19 while re-enforcing preventive practices such as maintaining social distancing, use of face masks and regular had sanitization. Further, citizens above the age of 65 years and those with non-communicable diseases are advised to stay at home. A significant percentage of Medical practioners started consulting online enabled by tele medicine services. All of them are issuing prescriptions using either one of the digital means- sending a picture of prescription via chat applications, email or via apps.
This calls for new ways of thinking- to access to medicine whilst minimizing the contact and movement of people. Therefore, digital services and e-pharmaceutical retailing have become extremely important and essential service to make medicine available to remotest part of the country using technology.
Online medicine delivery in post-Covid world
Habit altering shifts like online pharmacy specifically tend to go through the stages of consumer adoption, from early adopters to widespread acceptance. The pandemic has accelerated the speed of widespread adoption- as a service what once saw as ‘Convenience’ has now been recognized as ‘Lifeline of last resort’. Consumer sentiments towards online pharma has moved one notch from “Acceptance’ level to ‘Appreciation’ stage.
The demand for overall medicines category went up during the lockdown period as users resorted to stocking up medicines for emergencies. This was confirmed in the consumer surveys, where consumers cited decline in the usage of both online & offline retail channels across all commodities in the lockdown phase, but medicine retail saw marked increase.
Despite various on-ground operational challenges, including the risk of frontline workers such as delivery cadre being exposed to the virus, online pharmacies showed nothing short of resilience and worked throughout the day to keep services going and ensuring most lockdown cities are well served for their healthcare needs and essential medicine.
At MyMed, one of the most fulfilling rewards of meeting the challenge of supplying medicine under lockdown condition is that we receive heartfelt appreciation for a service patient could count on and gratitude towards the risk taken on-behalf of them to deliver their essential medication.
“I didn’t know medicines could be ordered online before Covid lockdown. But now that I’ve tried this service, I would like to use it more often as it is convenient, safe & affordable.”- Upul
“Excellent service, it’s a great saving too especially when you have monthly prescriptions-paid by credit card so very safe. Got all medicine we required-Punchihewa”
‘Great service. I got my medicine delivered during the Covid-19 curfew time in November 2020. Really happy about the customer service and cash on delivery option is convenient. Highly recommended! – Upekha ‘
‘MyMed.lk is doing an excellent service -on time and fast delivery even outstation areas. Items neatly packed and safely delivered. Very trustable service. Well done and keep up good work – Kalaiselvi’ (Source: MyMed customer reviews)
In the longer run, consumer buying habits will be permanently altered towards online shopping for a number of reasons. Being under lockdown and restricted movement has given consumers an opportunity to hone their online shopping skills and many have discovered that shopping online is not only time saving and economical, but also can be enjoyable.
Post-lockdown, consumers and in fact people in general are going to become more tolerant and far less demanding in terms of their expectations. Everyone seems to have acquired new found sense of patience.
With the ease of movement restrictions, things will slowly start to resume towards normalcy. The pandemic has elevated the demand, supply and workforce complexities to a much greater extent and in many ways has forced everyone to realize that this is the ‘new normal’. As a substantive cohort in digital healthcare, online pharmacies will undoubtedly play a momentous role in bringing efficiency, affordability and quality in access to medicines for citizens of Sri Lanka.
Writer is Founder/Chairperson of Sri Lanka’s first market place based digital pharmacy MyMed.lk. MyMed established in 2017 and allows consumers to get the highest prescription fulfillment rate powered by robust network of SLMC certified pharmacies across the island. From prescription based medication to Over the counter drugs, MyMed covers island wide last mile delivery of all health and wellness products.