Since 2013, Myanmar’s government has been rolling out various digital technology initiatives to spur digitization of key economic industries in the country.
Telecommunications companies, internet providers, banks and e-commerce platforms are taking the lead when it comes to introducing new digital products and services to the population.
The country’s healthcare sector is not left out from this evolution. Although notable progress is being made in the digital space, I believe there is still much to be done. Here, I wish to highlight the key digitization challenges I believe will play an important role in helping the progress of the healthcare sector in Myanmar.
According to the latest research carried out by DKSH and Nicholas Hall on the pharmacy business in Myanmar, a clear majority or pharmacists still believe that face-to-face and phone communications are the preferred channels of communication with product and drug manufacturers. Unlike other countries where pharmacists can search for drug information online, sales representatives in Myanmar are perceived as the most important source for pharmacists when they need to know about detailed product information and place orders. Sales representatives, therefore, play an essential role in helping pharmacists better serve patients and deliver improved outcomes.
While e-commerce is taking a bigger portion of overall retail sales in many countries around the world, Myanmar is not yet fully adopting online sales platforms as a healthcare trading channel. There is a common belief that the quality of online over-the-counter (OTC) products is poor. Furthermore, online payments remain a problem. Thus only three percent of pharmacists sell OTC products online. A further reason for this low uptake of online shopping is that people still have limited access to the internet: merely four percent of households own a computer and only 25 percent of the overall population uses the internet, while there are a staggering 16 million Facebook users.
Creating awareness amongst pharmacists on the benefits of digitization remains difficult in Myanmar. While it has rapidly become a market with the potential to transform into a digital economy, familiarity with the existing procedures, fear of change and the possible negative effects remain the biggest hurdles.
Despite Myanmar’s slow digitization, I am sure that the internet will become one of the most important sources of healthcare information in the near future. One way to increase digitization in this market, is to ensure better access for both pharmacists and consumers to information and support services. As previously highlighted by my colleague Bertrand Sauvageon in his article, DKSH was the founding member of a flagship program to provide rural people in Myanmar with digital content, tools and applications in areas such as health, farming, finance, education and women’s empowerment.
If you are interested in entering the pharmacy sector in Myanmar, choosing the right partner can help you extend your business at a faster rate and lower cost. Many OTC brands are learning to extend their business through strategic partnerships with a partner who conducts significant research and can offer expertise and best practices to clients.
If you are passionate about the healthcare sector in Myanmar and have something to share, do reach out to me.
Phillip Wray is Vice President Healthcare at DKSH Myanmar. With 25 years of experience in the Asia Pacific healthcare sector, he has a solid understanding of the region’s opportunities and challenges.
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