Interview with the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the CEO

Walter Oberhänsli (left) and Walter Hess

Electronic prescriptions are a turning point for DocMorris. CEO Walter Hess and Chairman of the Board of Directors Walter Oberhänsli report on the opportunities offered by this long-awaited leap into digitalisation. They also take stock of the 2023 financial year.

Walter Hess, 2023 was an eventful year. Let’s start with the results we achieved. Adjusted EBITDA at DocMorris rose CHF 50 million compared to the previous year. What were the measures that led to this result?

W. H. – This is the result of the break-even programme we launched in 2022 and implemented systematically in 2023. The programme included integrating brands and locations, significantly improving performance in marketing and logistics, increasing the gross margin and walking away from revenue and orders that were not profitable. And – most importantly – reducing the complexity of the organisation, and reducing costs accordingly.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire DocMorris team for their tremendous efforts to make this result possible.

Walter Oberhänsli, what was your personal highlight in 2023?

W. O. – What a question! We have waited long enough for it, and you may not even want to hear about it any more. But it’s electronic prescriptions. This is THE highlight we’ve been working towards for a very, very long time. Looking back, they should have been introduced in the early 2000s. But that didn’t happen. Then it was supposed to be 2022. There was a delay, but now they’re here!

Walter Oberhänsli, the sale of the Swiss business in 2023 broke new ground for DocMorris. What do you think of this decision, one year later?

W. O. – Even a year later, I am completely convinced that the decision was the right one from a business perspective. It allowed us to make our business more streamlined. It used to be much more complex than it is today. That was a constant point of criticism by investors. And now we have a very clear strategy. That’s one thing. The other thing is that we were able to hugely improve our capital base and secure our strategy.

Walter Hess, the focus is now on the core B2C business. How has this change affected the organisation?

W. H. – We have been able to streamline the organisation significantly. In addition to integrating the various locations, we have combined group functions at the headquarters in Frauenfeld into the operational organisation in Germany and cover them with the teams there. We reduced the size of the Executive Board, I also took on the role as Head Germany. At the same time, we were able to significantly intensify cross-divisional and cross-segment collaboration again in order to make better use of expertise and resources across the various countries.

Walter Hess, the long-awaited electronic prescription has been mandatory since the start of 2024. What does this mean for online pharmacies in general and DocMorris in particular?

W. H. – For one thing, it’s really a very, very big event for us, as Walter said. We have been working towards this for a very long time and I think we share some of the credit for it happening at all. As of today, well over 100 million prescriptions have already been issued and redeemed electronically. More than 70 per cent of prescriptions are now redeemed electronically every day.

Of course, the fact that there will soon be a fully digital redemption channel means, for online pharmacies in general, but for us at DocMorris in particular, that we will gain direct access to the 55 billion Euro market in prescription medicines. And that’s not all. There is still a lot of potential for the future. The intention is that doctors will no longer be reimbursed for prescribing medication on a quarterly basis, but once a year instead. This opens up further potential for us in terms of offerings and services that make it easier for people with chronic diseases to access medications.

Walter Hess, how does the fully digital redemption channel work at DocMorris?

W. H. – It’s very simple. You pick up your smartphone, open the DocMorris app and select the “Dispense prescription” function with your healthcare card. Then you enter the six-digit number on your healthcare card and hold it up to your smartphone for a few seconds. You can then see in the shopping basket all the medications that have been prescribed.

Users also have the option of ordering non-prescription medication or beauty and personal care products at the same time. If the prescription is sent before 8 p.m., the medication and the other products ordered will be delivered to your home by the evening of the following day at the latest.

Walter Oberhänsli, your vision is for people to be able to manage their health in one click. What progress has DocMorris made towards this vision?

W.O. – We’ve just heard about it. Electronic prescriptions play a key role in this world of digitalisation and our ecosystem. We are trying to bring health closer to people and make everything simpler. This requires electronic prescriptions. Over the last two years, a great deal has been done towards what we have just been hearing about. A lot of things have become easier. In that sense, e-prescriptions were an important focus. The evolution of the ecosystem has lagged behind a little.

In addition to electronic prescriptions, telemedicine certainly plays a decisive role. We introduced this into our ecosystem some time ago and still consider it to be a major pillar. Specifically, the fact that people can use our platform to consult a doctor very quickly and easily to obtain health advice and an electronic prescription. And be able to call on other services the same way in future.

A third topic with great prospects for the future is the Care Program, which we just launched for Diabetes. Of these three topics, electronic prescriptions were the main focus. That’s why I can say from my point of view: I am very, very happy about the current situation. It’s far better than where we were two years ago. We are much more certain that our customers will now be able to follow this digital path.

Walter Hess, the number of DocMorris customers rose again in the second half of the year to over 9 million. The inflection point?

W. H. – It was very important that the number of active customers passed the nine million mark and is now growing again. Our revenues are increasing from quarter to quarter. The inflection point has been passed. Now we are heading towards profitable growth.

Walter Hess, what is your focus for the current year 2024?

W. H. – We have set ourselves three priorities: First, that everything we do is really geared to the needs and desires of our customers and patients. Second, that we now enter the market with electronic prescriptions and are able to expand our market share as quickly as possible. And third, that we grow into profitable growth overall.

Walter Oberhänsli, how do you see the long-term opportunities for DocMorris?

W. O. – We always come to the same point. It’s about electronic prescriptions, which are a turning point. The pharmacy markets will change significantly as a result of this innovation. That’s why the opportunities are really huge. We have seen in other industries what digitalisation means and how it changes purchasing behaviour. This will happen in our industry, i.e. the pharmacy market, too, because the situation has now changed entirely. That’s why I think the odds are better than ever. I’m counting on it.