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Seven Ways E-Commerce is Changing Healthcare Purchasing

The Internet continues to change American purchasing habits. According to a recent report from Internet Retailer, e-Commerce accounted for more than half of all retail sales growth in 2018 and more than 14 percent of total retail purchases.

Not surprisingly, healthcare providers are seeking the same benefits – cost, convenience and the ability to comparison shop – as online consumers. To better understand the effect of e-Commerce on purchasing for non-acute healthcare providers, Premier® conducted a series of member surveys over the past year. The responses offer insight into how and why businesses are supplementing traditional purchasing through e-Commerce channels.

The findings show that purchasers are integrating online buying into their routines more, though buying from suppliers and distributors is still slightly more prevalent. Overall, purchasers in the alternate site space are looking for trusted expertise, both in what to buy and the medium from which they purchase. When it comes to determining which products to choose, these purchasers look to subject-matter experts including suppliers, distributors and group purchasing organizations. They also cite trust in the online platform as a top driver of online purchasing.

Seven Key Takeaways for E-Commerce and Healthcare Business Purchasing

1. Providers are purchasing through traditional and non-traditional channels.

The majority of non-acute healthcare providers are purchasing through suppliers (85 percent) or distributors (82 percent), but they also supplement their purchasing through e-Commerce sites (75 percent) and in retail stores (54 percent).

2. Both cost and convenience drive online purchasing.

Cost is a primary driver of online business purchasing, and a secure, timesaving platform built by a trusted partner is important. According to Premier’s survey, the top three factors that influence online business purchasing are cost of products, convenience and trust in the company providing the online platform.

3. Most business purchases are made via computer.

Mobile devices have not yet taken over as the preferred purchasing medium. More than 75 percent of respondents report they make at least half of their business purchases using a computer.

4. Online purchasing occurs across categories.

Top categories for online purchasing include office supplies (69 percent), facilities and maintenance (62 percent) and IT hardware (58 percent). Slightly less than half of purchasers report that they purchase electronics, medical/surgical supplies, and foodservice products, indicating online purchasing for these contract categories has the most room for growth.

5. Influential purchasing advice comes from experts as well as from peers.

When it comes to researching which products to buy, alternate-site providers value input from both subject matter experts and their own peers. On the expert side, nearly two-thirds of respondents use supplier or distributor sales representatives for purchasing research and 43 percent use group purchasing organizations. At the same time, more than half of respondents incorporate online reviews into purchasing decisions, while slightly less than half consider professional associations and word of mouth from colleagues.

6. Businesses are constantly making purchases.

Purchasing is an ongoing task for most healthcare providers, with nearly 40 percent making daily purchases and just over 30 percent purchasing between two and four times a week. Just 14 percent of respondents make business purchases less often than weekly.

7. Purchasing occurs on multiple platforms.

Most non-acute providers rely on a handful of online platforms for their purchasing, with 57 percent buying from between one and five websites a month.

Building a Trusted, Transparent Digital Marketplace

As purchasing habits evolve, healthcare leaders will continue to look for reliable products from reputable manufacturers and distributors housed on one platform, versus multiple. A single purchasing platform leads to reduced operating costs and significant time savings, yet our survey found that a substantial number (39 percent) of respondents purchase from more than six websites each month, including a few who purchase from more than 20 sites.

To that end, Premier has invested in stockd, a new digital marketplace that connects healthcare providers and busi­nesses to suppliers and products, complete with tools and insights. By offering transparent pricing directly on the site, stockd enables buyers to easily compare products and pricing from multiple sellers.

Based on the input in our survey, non-acute providers still rely heavily on the value, cost savings and trusted advice that comes with traditional purchasing channels. But at the same time, they’ve shifted to e-Commerce to supplement traditional purchasing. Through stockd, users leverage Premier’s healthcare purchasing expertise as well as the stockd community to help inform purchasing decisions, giving them back time and resources to excel at operations and patient care.

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