New Research: The Rise Of Online Supplement Dispensaries


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More than 60% of practitioners now dispense supplements to their patients in some way.

Part 1

North American consumers show a growing realization of the importance of diet, nutrition, and lifestyle to their overall health and wellness. They now clearly indicate a strong and growing interest in alternatives to traditional pharmaceutical solutions and seek practitioners who focus on functional medicine and integrative health protocols. While this has led to a fragmented health care landscape, the changes are also creating opportunities to improve patient care, and practice revenues for many practitioners. Naturopathic physicians and chiropractors are at the forefront of this space, although alternative physicians and non-physician providers are now also meeting the demand.

But addressing these gaps in the health care system has created broad challenges for practitioners, who are looking for new solutions to make their practices more efficient while also providing effective and personalized patient care. They’re turning to technology in record numbers to provide comprehensive and secure communication with patients, compile medical records, track protocol results, and create new revenue. More than 80% of physicians have now adopted the use of electronic medical record (EMR) systems. (1) Use of this technology is slightly lower for alternative and holistic practitioners, but at least 50% now use these systems and that number is higher for those under age 50. (2)

As practitioners of all kinds adopt alternative practice models, they’re also relying more on nutrition and prevention-based protocols, which is bolstering the already growing acceptance and usage of supplements among North American consumers. According to data from Nutrition Business Journal, sales of supplements through practitioners is the fastest growing supplement sales channel, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.3 percent reaching $3.7 billion in 2016. The segment now accounts for 9 percent of all supplement sales.

Given this consumer interest, it’s not surprising that a majority, near 80 percent, of all types of practitioners, including NDs and DCs, as well as conventionally trained MDs and DOs, are now discussing supplements with their patients, for a wide range of health conditions from immune support and gastrointestinal issues to sleep problems. (3)

According to the Holistic Primary Care’s 2018 Practitioner survey, more than 60 percent of practitioners now dispense supplements to their patients in some way, and this has nearly doubled from 34 percent in 2013. (4) Dispensing nutritional supplements is certainly more common among holistic practitioners, although about one-third to half of the more conventionally trained practitioners are now dispensing these products through their practice as well.

Practitioners who are actively prescribing supplements understand that quality, efficacy, and patient adherence to nutritional protocols are essential for successful patient outcomes. They also know it’s a challenge to ensure that patients are getting the specifically formulated products they prescribe if they’re purchasing them elsewhere. Most of these products are not found in local pharmacies or health food stores, and even if they were, there is no way to track whether patients are fulfilling these recommendations. As a result, many practitioners have long been forced to offer an onsite supplement inventory to help ensure patient compliance.

Supplement sales through practitioners is the fastest growing supplement sales channel.

Online dispensaries are making it easier than ever to prescribe supplements in a patient-friendly and efficient way. The benefits of working with an online dispensary tool include:

  • Saving time and money: Advances in online supplement dispensaries allow practitioners to simplify their dispensing needs to spend more time and energy on patient care.
  • Maximizing efficiencies: Dispensing becomes a part of the practice workflow: It’s now possible to integrate these online dispensaries with leading EMR and EHR platforms, like Power2Practice, and CHARM EHR.
  • Improving patient adherence: Improved patient communication and refill reminders lead to greater patient satisfaction and more successful patient outcomes.
  • Providing a means to effectively compete with other retail channels: Online retailers offer convenience and, to a lesser degree, price (most professional brands actively monitor and police MAP), but most do not exclusively sell supplements so they have little focus on vetting products for quality and efficacy. Online dispensaries focus on supplements only and vet products to offer trusted, quality brands as an authorized reseller.
  • Capturing revenue: Instead of sending patients to a local retailer or pharmacy, practitioners can cost-effectively add supplements to their revenue stream. This can also recoup lost revenue—patients are more likely to purchase refills from their practitioner if it’s convenient and easy, rather than buying an inferior product online or at their local market.

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  1. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
  2. Goldman, E. Holistic Primary Care 2018 Practitioner Survey. https://www.holisticprimarycare.net/
  3. Ibid. Holistic Primary Care 2018 Practitioner Survey.
  4. Ibid. Holistic Primary Care 2018 Practitioner Survey.