The internet has revolutionized and changed our lives, communication, and procurement practices and strategies. As access to the internet increases, its utilization to look for health information is additionally growing. Estimates worldwide demonstrate that approximately 4.5% of all internet searches are connected to health-related inquiries or information.
Population-based surveys found that 71% of internet users in Europe and 72% of the online population in the US, looked for health information at least once in the previous year. These tendencies are additionally extended by mobile device utilization. However, customers use the internet today not only for getting health information, yet also to self-diagnose and acquire different health services or products.
As per an early definition by Fung et al, an online pharmacy is an Internet-based legal or illegal vendor, which sells medicine and may work as an independent website, an online part of a “brick-and-mortar” pharmacy representing a partnership among pharmacies. Briefly, an online pharmacy is a website offering to deliver, dispense or distribute medication on the internet directly to buyers. The developing market of online pharmacies is encouraged by the rapid expansion of the internet, the consistently expanding digital health, the shift towards self-diagnosing from immediate doctor-patient relations, consumer experience in online purchases, the simplicity of mail-order trade, and distance selling.
While online medical consultations are set to be available in Germany by roughly 2020, the roll-out of pharmacy dispensing units (PDUs) remains the subject of heated debate. In South Africa, where 20 million individuals need to manage chronic illnesses and there is a huge lack of qualified pharmacists, digitalization of the health sector has already started: In three densely populated districts of Johannesburg, patients can gather their medication from 16 PDUs situated in four shopping centers. Around 15,000 people, 70% of whom are women, have effectively taken advantage of this service since spring 2017.
MACH4, a Germany-based supplier of robotic medical store automation solutions, and Right E-Pharmacy, a subsidiary of the South African NGO Right to Care, entered into participation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to make digital pharmacies a reality in South Africa. The project is upheld by develoPPP.de, a program set up by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Registered patients can retrieve their medication right at the dispensing units, which are also equipped with a video link to call a pharmacist for advice on the dosage and side effects. That service is available in the country’s eleven official languages and on weekends. It takes roughly five minutes to dispense the medication, compared with several hours of waiting time at public health facilities. Patients have issued chip cards that encourage access to patient and medicine order information stored in a cloud system.
The PDUs not just improve access to medication and expert advice, yet also the probability that patients take their medicine effectively and regularly: Patients get an instant text message to remind them of their next pick-up appointment. The system additionally decreases the probability of getting to be infected with different diseases in overcrowded waiting rooms or being stigmatized as an HIV patient.
The PDUs are not at full capacity yet: they could really serve twice or threefold the number of patients. What's more, that is something worth being thankful for as the number of people utilizing the high-tech pharmacies continues to expand each month.
We found, that internet usage and online purchase behavior, in general, will predict the attitude toward online medication purchases and the increase in online pharmacy customers.
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