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E-commerce

What Can Contact Lens Prices Teach About Telehealth Regulation?

Rising health-care costs present a large burden to future Americans. Telehealth and e-commerce can keep rising health-care costs in check and increase the quality of care and the patient experience.

Transitioning towards telehealth and more health-related e-commerce presents a regulatory challenge. There are health services that should, of course, be provided in person, while others can be provided remotely with limited risk to the patient. One clear area is in the contact lens market. Once an optometrist issues a prescription, consumers can easily judge for themselves where to buy contact lenses. There are no obvious health concerns or risks for individuals from purchasing contacts from a licensed seller rather than from an optometrist. Brands are relatively static, and consumers have constant but predictable demand for the number of contacts they buy. Furthermore, contacts are easy to ship. In fact, it’s hard to think of a health-related industry more primed to turn e-commerce into cost savings for consumers than the contact industry.

However, online sales of contact lenses in the United States lag behind those of several other countries. Online sales represent 18 percent of U.S. sales, but 25 percent

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New Government Report Confirms Benefits of Digital Trade

The digital economy has been a major boon to U.S. domestic and international trade, as is documented by a new report by the United States International Trade Commission entitled Digital Trade in the U.S. and Global Economies (summary here). And even though the report shows important benefits from digital trade, those benefits are likely understated. This is because the report limited its analysis to “digitally intensive” sectors, which means that its numbers exclude contributions from firms that only use digital trade as a smaller part of their business.

Still, digital trade has made quite an impact: the report estimates that digital trade has raised real U.S. GDP by $517.1-$710.7 billion (3.4−4.8 percent) by increasing productivity and lowering the costs of trade. By raising GDP, digital trade increased average wages, and the increased wages likely contributed to increased employment by as much as 2.4 million jobs.

Within digitally intensive industries (and likely within many non-digitally intensive industries, although the report focused on the former), the internet has come to play a major role in everyday commerce. Firms in these industries sell nearly a trillion dollars’ worth of goods and services

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