One year into the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries around the world have gone back into their 2nd or even 3rd lockdown as they see a surge in Covid-19 cases. Hitting an average of over 500,000 cases worldwide a day, the need for medical supplies and equipment to be readily available on a global scale for frontline workers to effectively combat this virus has become glaringly apparent. Responding to the increased demand for medical goods in the past year, the healthcare ecommerce market has experienced a sudden surge, jumping from US$181 billion in 2019 to US$352 billion in 2020. However, was this boom in market value solely the result of Covid-19, or was healthcare ecommerce already steadily rising to begin with? Let’s explore the different facets of healthcare ecommerce and how it has developed as a market over the years.
The Growth of Healthcare Ecommerce
Truth be told, the healthcare ecommerce market has been steadily growing over the past few years. In an increasingly hectic world, convenience is king and more people are flocking to alternative avenues like telehealth for their medical needs. Telehealth for example, has been developed to allow for remote diagnosis, treatment and monitoring over the years. The ease of obtaining one’s medical needs from the comfort of home holds great appeal, and with the advancement of technology and mobile connectivity, this has contributed to the rise in demand for telehealth.
With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and countries across the world going into lockdowns, convenience soon turned into necessity even for urban centres across the world, and healthcare ecommerce saw exponential growth as more individuals took to online platforms to seek medical consultation as well as purchase the medical supplies they needed. Telemedicine in North America, for example, doubled in market size, growing from US$17 billion in 2019 to around US$35 billion in 2020. However, this development was not limited to just regular citizens who needed medical check-ups; hospitals and other medical institutions also required new ways to obtain their supplies remotely. With traditional supply chains disrupted as a result of border closures and rising Covid-19 cases, medical equipment was quickly running scarce. In order to combat the shortage of medical necessities, many healthcare providers turned to different medical marketplaces for the procurement of their goods. After a year of the pandemic, healthcare and medical related marketplaces have now become the de facto form of medical supply procurement. Here are some examples of the different forms of healthcare marketplaces we have observed that are changing the healthcare landscape.
Telehealth marketplaces have become increasingly popular, as the ability to consult a medical professional without the need to travel is a strong appeal. Reaching a global market value of US$38 billion in 2020, the telehealth market is expected to hit around US$190 billion by 2025, exacerbated by improvements in telecommunications and an increased demand for healthcare needs. One telehealth marketplace that has made its mark is CirrusMD, a Colorado-based company that was founded in 2012. CirrusMD prides itself in being a service that is available 24/7, connecting potential patients all across the United States to board-certified doctors within a minute. They boast a reach of nearly 10 million users as of 2020 and have recently partnered with different companies like Moda Health to provide extensive health plans as well.
In Singapore, telehealth start-up DoctorAnywhere has also found success, having recently raised US$40 million in total for their funding. DoctorAnywhere enables their users to consult a licensed doctor through the app, and ensures that the necessary medication will be delivered to the user’s doorsteps in a few hours. As of 2020, DoctorAnywhere serves more than a million users in Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand, and is looking to expand their platform to Malaysia and the Philippines. Clearly, telehealth will steadily increase in outreach and market value in the years to come.
Medical Supplies Procurement
The exponential surge in Covid-19 cases worldwide was a phenomenon that many, if not all, countries were ill-prepared for. Hospitals all over the world struggled to keep up with caseloads, not just with regards to manpower, but also in terms of single-use medical supplies. With the traditional form of door-to-door sales being eliminated, these medical institutions turned to online marketplaces as the solution to supplement their draining supply of medical goods. One such platform is MedSourceHub, a medical supplies marketplace set up by UK-based company Sovereign Sustainability and Development (SSD) through Singapore-based Arcadier, a global leader for marketplace building platforms. Created primarily to facilitate the sourcing and distribution of medical goods, MedSourceHub partners with fortune 500 companies to provide medical supplies in bulk, including consumables like face masks, equipment and Covid-19 testing kits, to various organisations around the globe.
Likewise, Lumiere32 has been a reliable source of medical supplies within the Southeast Asia region. Founded in 2016, Lumiere32 has recently become the main source of medical supplies to several healthcare institutions in Singapore such as Singhealth Clinics and Raffles Hospital, and expanded their reach overseas, exporting their supplies to the region. These healthcare marketplaces filled an urgent need when traditional supply chains failed, and ensured that medical supplies continued to flow when and where they were most needed.
Medical Equipment Rental/Exchange
Naturally, healthcare institutions require medical equipment on top of just single-use medical supplies. These equipment take the form of EKGs, bioprinters, ventilators, or even hospital beds, and are essential in ensuring patient monitoring and survival. Manufacturing and procuring these equipment is not as simple as basic medical supplies, and are often rented or traded for instead. One company that has joined the mix is Kwipped.com, an equipment rental company based in the United States. Kwipped.com has equipment rental, leasing, and lease-to-own options in different vertical markets, and recently, their medical and laboratory equipment businesses have been booming. The demand for beds increased by around 4000%, while the demand for ventilators increased by a whooping 32,000% between 2017 and 2020.
Another similar marketplace that has recently surfaced is The Exchange, a platform powered by Resilinc that aims to facilitate the procurement of medical equipment for hospitals by trading them for other equipment that they might not need. The Exchange is not a traditional ecommerce marketplace; instead, it runs on barter trading and aims purely at the reallocation of resources and improving the capacity of various hospitals. The Exchange has also opened itself up to donations from private companies and other organisations to ensure that there is an increased quantity of medical equipment to meet the needs of healthcare providers.
Within Asia, India-based MedikaBazaar has also risen to be a giant in the medical equipment procurement market. Founded in 2015, MedikaBazaar currently caters to 45,000 hospitals in over 22 cities within India, as well as several hospitals in the Middle East, Bangladesh and Indonesia. They offer both single-use medical supplies, as well as more advanced medical equipment like defibrillators and patient monitoring devices, readily available in bulk for the needs of medical institutions. MedikaBazaar primarily provides medical equipment to the rural cities and towns in India, as they seek to ensure that even in poorer regions, Covid-19 patients would have a higher standard of healthcare than they normally would.
It is clear that Covid-19 has been a catalyst in boosting healthcare and medical ecommerce at an unforeseen pace across the world. That being said, these industries have already seen businesses moving to online platforms for some time now, with a steadily growing base of users and supporters. As the world continues to fight the pandemic, it is almost without a doubt that healthcare and medical ecommerce, especially healthcare and medical marketplaces, will continue to prosper. When it comes down to it, healthcare ecommerce might well be the “new normal” that the world will embrace.
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