Health commodity items are perhaps the easiest to transition from traditional hard copy catalogs to online publications. Traditionally, health providers must work through a company sales representative or distribution middleman in order to purchase medical equipment and supplies for their clinics or offices.
There are two separate sets of potential clients for medical equipment and supplies. The first are industry members. These would include hospitals, doctors' offices, outpatient health centers, home health agencies, nursing homes, and medical laboratories.
Payers of health services obviously play a pivotal role in the entire health system. Currently, most health insurance companies are utilizing the web for informational purposes. However, some companies are utilizing e-commerce in one of two ways.
Consumers use a wide range of prescription and over-the-counter medications for prevention and treatment purposes. Medications include anything traditionally provided in the health section of a supermarket or drug store or products supplied only through a physician's prescription.
The Internet serves as an innovative source for the actual acquisition of medical care and services. The purchasing of medical diagnoses, treatment recommendations, ongoing care management, or a simple second opinion from a licensed health provider falls in this category. These services could be theoretically purchased from a physician, nurse, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, psychologist, social worker, or speech/physical/occupational therapists. Currently, the handful of forays into cybermedicine appears to be coming from a few enterprising physicians who have set up medical practices on the Web.
Though health information on the web is obviously popular and an important application, it is not challenged by the many stringent health guidelines and requirements that confront the other categories of e-health firms. Specifically, online pharmacies and clinical providers face the same strict legal and delivery-based barriers that confront traditional health firms.