When I started Onfy in Germany in 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic, I knew that the way people got their medicines and supplements was not fit for the modern world. How could it be that you could order groceries to your doorstep, but that the way people get their medicine hadn’t changed for decades?
Yet as we began building our business, we realised that the inefficiencies in medicine were not just limited to how people got it. The problems were bigger. Yes, we could partner with pharmacies to provide consumers with better ways to access over the counter medicines and supplements. But the market also wasn’t working well for pharmacies, especially local ones who are at the heart of many communities.
Those pharmacies face a rising tide of costs. Some of those aren’t related to the healthcare sector – things like energy prices. But many of them are. Inflation and supply bottlenecks have driven up the prices of many drugs and in general most pharmacies have to buy from wholesalers, rather than going direct to manufacturers.
This route of purchase, alongside the general inflationary and supply chain problems, leads to higher prices – for a number of reasons. Firstly, because they have to work through a wholesale ‘middle man’ who by taking a cut of the purchase inflates the price. Secondly, because often the pharmacies don’t have the time to shop around for the best deal and therefore end up paying more than they should. And finally, because the pharmacies don’t have the scale to negotiate volume discounts.
The result of these problems is that in Germany, like many other European countries, we have been seeing an increasing number of pharmacies close their doors. This is bad news for pharmacies but also bad news for patients – fewer pharmacies means less choice and an increased likelihood that their won’t be a location as convenient in the neighborhood.
What we’ve found in our discussions with pharmacists is that technology can not only improve how they work with existing patients by providing them with new ways to order and receive their products, but it can also help the pharmacies themselves buy better and more efficiently.
At Onfy, we’re doing this by launching a new online marketplace that will enable pharmacies to buy their products directly from manufacturers. Our aim is that this will connect thousands of pharmacies across Germany directly with hundreds of different manufacturers – providing them with a simple way of purchasing at a significantly lower cost.
The digital platform will also leverage AI technology to help pharmacists operate their businesses better. It can often be time consuming for pharmacists to understand customer demand patterns, but by using AI this can be done in an automated way and synchronised with the business’ procurement and buying.
This is a win-win model as it also provides manufacturers whose products are sold by pharmacies with an easier route to market. A direct pharmacy-manufacturer relationship is simpler for them too, removes bureaucracy and provides them with better visibility of the demand for the products they are selling.
This all has the potential to transform the way pharmacies operate. A streamlined, technology-enabled way of buying products will save both time and money. This will do two things. Firstly, it has the potential to reduce some of the immediate pressure on pharmacies (particularly financial burdens). Secondly, it will give pharmacies more ability to focus on the people who matter – their customers.
In a world where pharmacies are thriving and not just surviving, they’ll be able to think about new and better ways to serve their customers. This might include new ways of pricing that make them more attractive but it may also include investing in ways to provide greater convenience – for example, by introducing express deliveries, new ways for their customers to purchase from them using digital channels or even an expanded product range.
This is an incredibly exciting mission to be working on. At Onfy, we’ve already helped over 120,000 customers located in Germany get easy online access to medicines and supplements, but there is an opportunity far beyond that. We have a significant addressable market, but also the chance to deliver better outcomes for everyone in the pharmacy ecosystem.
Iana Liaskovik is the Founder and CEO of Onfy.
Onfy is a fast-growing healthcare technology platform that is transforming the pharmacy ecosystem. Onfy was founded in 2021 by CEO Iana Liaskovik and is headquartered in Berlin. An online marketplace for pharmacies, Onfy offers over 70,000 prescription-free products with prices 20 to 60 per cent lower on average than the recommended retail price. For more information, visit onfy.de or the Onfy app.