Healthcare is the industry that’s on everyone’s lips today. Changing the way it functions is harder than it looks on the surface. But there are business models able to reshape even the most established practices. Is a marketplace platform ready to meet this challenge?
What is a Marketplace Platform?
Marketplace platforms present quite a popular segment related to the portfolio of services, interactions between private professionals or companies and service consumers, and quick and easy online transactions.
According to the definition from Wikipedia, an online marketplace is ‘a type of e-commerce site where product or service information is provided by multiple third parties. Online marketplaces are the primary type of multichannel e-commerce and can be a way to streamline the production process.’
Put it simply, if you need a platform business model whose purpose is to facilitate exchanges between buyers and sellers, a marketplace platform is a nice option. Although, it’s not limited to buying only — rentals, exchanges, negotiations, auctions, and other forms of possible interactions are available.
As soon as traditional e-commerce platforms lack the ability to engage multiple vendors, marketplaces are all about a rich choice of buyers, sellers, service providers, or simple watchers gathered in one place to communicate and transact with each other.
As for the members or core elements involved in the possible interactions within the platform, they could be:
Individuals (service providers, subject matter experts, etc.)
Products (focus is on buying and selling goods)
Locations, or Places (property dealings)
Projects (knowledge sharing, people’s contribution, and discussions)
Mixed (platforms can combine several or all elements)
This business model works for different industries that have something to do with customer and vendor relationships. In our article, we will delve deep into the Healthcare industry, as it’s definitely the front industry today. How do marketplace platforms enhance the medical sector and contribute to the industry's business growth?
Marketplace Platforms in Healthcare: Where to Apply?
It can't be denied that today, medicine is a topic that affects and causes much concern around all people, regardless of location, social status, occupation, or age. Being worried by pandemic and frustrated with the unpredictability of the global situation, we seem to forget about regular healthcare-related issues that will not disappear after the percentage of the infected will decrease significantly.
The ways we get essential medical services at the most affordable price will go on arousing much interest. Healthcare businesses never stop searching for the best models to offer us their services, whereas patients or, broadly speaking, service recipients prioritize cost savings without loss of quality and multi-options.
The question here is, “Can a marketplace platform model work for the healthcare sector as a tool to eliminate the excessive service complexity and pitfalls, destroy organizational barriers, and achieve much higher client satisfaction with healthcare networking?” As the world has already got used to ordering any service in two clicks and having no complaints afterwards (if the service is high quality, of course!), we need the same level of options, speed, and assortment variety in Healthcare as well.
Let’s come closer to the cases where the marketplace model makes both basic and tricky scenarios a piece of cake.
Health insurance options available to individuals, groups or families, and corporates form a crucial aspect in sustaining citizens’ well-being. The first issue that comes to mind is a tiresome process of selecting an optimal coverage package among a variety of offers. On the other hand, health insurance services should be compliant with the regional healthcare reforms, e.g., Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the US.
Marketplace platform is a key to a private insurance model where the insurers act as intermediaries between physicians/medical organizations and consumers, having all data on medical service quality, price range, and a set of services available. For consumers, there is no need to search for a coverage option individually — a software solution accumulates them, processes the requests in no time, and simplifies all needed transactions.
It seems that marketplace platforms were born for telehealth — distribution of health-related services and information using telecommunications technologies. Whereas telehealth and telemedicine (remote medical services) are incredibly popular in America first, today’s situation vividly shows that the future is associated with remote opportunities and online care.
Another true story is people’s busy lives and an extreme lack of time — remote healthcare services meet this challenge. Speaking about the particular remote services in the area of telehealth, here are some that are possible to be conducted by the means of online marketplace healthcare platforms: chronic disease management, preventative care, post-hospitalization support, or even school-based telemedicine (the innovation option that allows children who are feeling unwell to get urgent consultations immediately from the educational institution).
Time to move to a broader pool of services. Healthcare goes beyond disease diagnostics and treatment. All physical or mental impairments are possible to improve with the help of first-class medical service (beauty shots, teeth whitening, birthmark removal treatment, and other procedures at the intersection of health and beauty included).
As millions of offers are distributed across different service providers, why not gather them all together and present in a structured and clear way? That’s probably the most obvious functionality of marketplace platforms — to provide people with a quick search engine according to the desired service, available time slots, locations, rank of service providers, preferred price, and other criteria. Just enter the platform, choose the service from the list, identify your search criteria, and explore the matches.
Standardized approach to interaction — ‘Uber’ in the medical context
Everyone knows the Uber scheme — first, you schedule the ride, then accept a price, and get the info about your driver. This model works well for the marketplace healthcare platform in case of the established price standardization strategy.
You pick up the price limit and get a physician assigned to you. Such an approach enables plain interactions between patients and healthcare specialists through a network without shifts in final decisions. If a person aims to pay the cheapest price possible, this scheme works for this purpose as it brings a price point to the fore, connecting two parties after patients book the service.
Patient-powered price setting becomes a reality
Marketplace platforms are capable of putting non-trivial concepts into practice, too. For instance, how about changing a traditional approach to price setting and letting users determine how much they are ready to pay for a medical or beauty procedure?
That was one of the projects the Emerline team was involved in — we created a portal where users leave requests for a health, beauty, or dental procedure, picking the prices they are willing to pay and maximum distance to a service provider they can cover.
Another role within the portal, a physician or medical center registered in the system and capable of providing the selected service, receives the request and accepts it if they are okay with the price.
In a nutshell, the solution works like an auction platform — it’s up to hospitals or individual physicians to decide whether to agree on the asking price.
While implementing a web platform, we also put a mobile solution into practice, as there was a strong need from the healthcare organizations to instantly receive requests from service consumers and react in real-time.
Following the website flow mainly, our team adapted the interaction scenario to mobile:
- Push notifications let physicians get the up-to-date request picture and promptly react to the users’ demands and price expectations;
- Stripe and Twilio for the smooth authentication using SMS were used to collect credit card details in a secure way;
- Overlay hints displayed above the corresponding buttons or images guided the users of the mobile app on their way to filling or processing requests. Pretty easy for both parties!
From a business perspective, this marketplace healthcare platform both on web and mobile represents a rather democratic approach to medical services — clients ‘make their bets’, whereas hospitals are free to accept the price if they find it commercially profitable, thus avoiding the gaps in their service schedule.
When it comes to the patient-physician interaction, the marketplace platform model offers boundless options. As remote iterations and online channels are becoming an integral part of our lives (sometimes, it’s a must, not an option), the role of marketplace platforms grows stronger.
How to implement marketplace platforms into the healthcare and insurance processes and get maximum benefits? What are the possible ways to improve organizational issues in healthcare? How to attain utmost transparency in collaboration between healthcare service providers and consumers by the means of a single platform?
We are always willing to answer these and other questions as well as transmute the idea into a smart healthcare solution to address a number of challenges.