Earlier this year, I was visiting one of our physician partners in Baroda. During our conversation, he asked me: “Can you import this stent for me?” Intrigued, I asked why he wanted it to be imported when it was readily available in India. I was surprised to know that his trusted dealer had told him that the stent was unavailable in India and had to be specially imported from the manufacturer. Incidents like this helped me realize the problem of medical consumables accessibility, which seems to be a grave concern in India. Outside the four metros and the state capitals, the supply chain of medical consumables constricts to limit the number of options available to physicians. Talking to physicians in these cities, we heard complaints about the lack of multiple brands and slower-moving sizes within brands as well.
Why does this happen? The broad-level drivers are not hard to guess. Dealers in the Tier 2/3 towns are small-sized and have limited capital and infrastructure, and hence, always try to balance their inventory cost versus the ability to service orders. We spoke to some dealers and found that the market demand trends have helped them identify the patterns of consumption. They know the popular codes for running brands. They follow the Pareto principle and try to meet 80% of all demands, while sacrificing 20%, with their limited inventory.
How does accessibility impact the practice of medicine? Long waiting time and bulk buying by physicians: Should a practitioner need a specific brand/size/variant which is not available with the dealer in the area, he has to wait until the dealer can make it available. Another alternative is bulk buying at annual expos. But that means blocking capital on stocks hoping that they will be used before expiry.
Micro Region-Specific Monopolies: Another long-term impact that this supply situation creates is micro monopolies of brands in specific product categories. To reduce their inventories, dealers gravitate towards a specific brand based on the usage pattern of physicians. This leads to brand monopolies which reduce the negotiation power of the buyers. Inability to try advanced/latest versions of medical devices: The limited options available for medical supplies restrict the quality of care. Trying cutting edge methods and devices remain off the radar.
Is there an alternative? Other than waiting for the supplies or stockpiling them, physicians in these cities have to make peace with their limited options. Of course, this has an impact on their practice. We at Smart Medical Buyer offer a solution that takes geography out of the equation and allows you to access the widest range of medical supplies at the click of a button. With Smart Medical Buyer, the order quantities can be small enough to suit an individual medical practice, at prices comparable to that of expo prices. We are trying to build a solution where technology is an enabler and a means to the end – which is to let you have the best options when you treat your patients. Smart Medical Buyer is India's largest medical supplies one-stop online shop, with more than 60 companies, greater than 1000 brands and 5000 plus unique items, and adding more every day. We can confidently claim to be ready to help you focus completely on patient care, while we take care of everything you need to provide the best possible treatment.