Health & Fitness

Health enterprises shift to e-commerce big boon

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto inspect medical equipment. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Online retailers Amazon and eBay’s ascendancy to global trade super status has revamped e-commerce. It seems this new model and structure of bypassing brick and mortar entities is the way to go. Locally online shopping is also slowly gaining traction and will grow once teething challenges like lack of formal address system, inefficient logistics and legislation on mail fraud are entrenched.

In healthcare, while distributorships have been preferred models, an increase in similar or equivalent products has created stiff competition. Pre sales costs in this model are high meaning goods end up being more expensive. Across many medical equipment and product lines, alternatives compete on price, quality and contract of purchase. The slight marginal advantage is what converts a pitch to a sale.

Not many traders have shifted to the online model as most still rely on the manufacturer, distributor exclusive contracts.

Rising incomes have spurred demand for novel devices and equipment by medical entrepreneurs as well as a decline in equipment donations due to stringent rules on servicing and maintenance checklists.

Another driver seems to be change in ownership. As more private facilities come up, fuelled by stagnation in public health sector infrastructure and equipment spend, more imports are needed. In the medical sector, pharma is almost 100 percent imported goods.

These are either finished goods or the base chemicals used for the local manufacture of the same.

Rising wealth status has spurred demand for more diagnostics tools especially in radiology, for example CAT scans, MRIs, X-rays units and Ultrasounds. With radiology being one of the fastest growing “heavy” diagnostics purchase more equipment is expected to be shipped in.

Other areas are hospital furniture such as orthopaedic and cardiology beds, sterile equipment and consumables that are fuelled by infection prevention protocols and new single use and dispose trend to avoid hospital infections. Future projections show good opportunities for those who venture into this segment.

An evaluation of the close to 9,000 facilities and available services, indicate in the next five years most will purchase some diagnostic or intervention equipment.

The public side has well over 87 percent lacking diagnostic services, a big potential area of growth.

For all these equipment, despite the mode of purchase, the final pathway is that they must come through a port. In our context, either Mombasa or JKIA are the options.

As health provider, what avenues are available and how does one save when importing goods individually? Crowd purchasing or container filling is now a vogue. Here several individual pre-purchase and fill a container for individual clearance.

Shipping lines and agents as well as insurance for both marine and land could do well to design dedicated health industry product for our entrepreneurs.