Medicines on-the-go need a tight framework around the various processes from order to delivery. Pulse gets the quick lowdown from Dr Karthik Anantharaman, Director at Medlife.com, on the IT challenges behind India’s largest online pharmacy.
What are the biggest challenges in running an e-pharmacy from an IT perspective?
Most of our orders get serviced within two hours from the time of placing the order. A few of them pass on to the same day delivery and a few to the next day delivery.The technology which defines the full workflow is complex–from placement of the order, to the pharmacist, a compliance process and then for it to pass to the doctor and then a dispensation to the patient.
So there are multiple logistical steps of workflow that it passes and one of the technical issues that we face is there are stocks which need to be inverted into a fulfillment center where it actually shows up in the inventory and then there are stocks when dispensing needs to get deleted from the inventory that is shown.
There are a lot of external and internal factors which do impact our turnaround time and customer experience in terms of being able to deliver a particular order on time. In most such cases, the IP or technology part does take time due to a lot of external and internal dependencies.
Is this problem of logistics a purely technological issue?
It’s not really much of a technology issue. It’s only about defining various types of use cases and defining various types of potential workflows which may occur on peak days or on non peak days.
It is a combination of understanding the subject, the pharmacology, but also understanding the marketing part of it and then developing the IT solution. Most of the IT team members don’t have an understanding of the commercial side of things which is where we see sometimes there are gaps.
How important is privacy in your field?
We offer 100% patient privacy and it is a part of our signup process itself. Any prescription or medical condition, our diagnosis that is uploaded on our platform solely remains for the consumption of the patient and the patient alone. The data is all encrypted as well so patient privacy is assured.
The e-pharmacy is completely cloud-based. Has cloud complexity grown beyond human capacity?
I don’t think so. Once we define the structure and the workflow and the use cases, we see that it’s a fairly simple thing to operate as a business. I guess the question of fixity considering that multiple grants are available. Unlike any other e-commerce business–whether you want to talk or fashion or retail– with medicines there are multiple types that are available and there are many brands of medicines which are actually available only regionally.
So there are limited-geography players which I would say which are available only in specific parts of the country and these are written only by a very select group of doctors and not really prescribed across the country in all of the regions. So that’s one of the diversities that we see in this business.
What was your most formative customer experience moment for you?
It’s a wild moment where many customers are delighted to get medicine supplied or delivered to them within two hours from the time of ordering. But the Eureka moment for me was our decision not to stock Schedule X drugs or narcotics via the online pharmacy. Patient safety is our utmost priority. In every transaction that we do, these policies have been put in place. This includes pharmacovigilance– where if any patient reports side effects to any medicine being purchased that there is a process to handle it as well as a way to report it back to the original manufacturing company and the regulators.