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  • Julie Pelta

Pharma 3.0 : Owning the Patient Journey

I love shopping on the internet, it’s so easy! When the Ocado delivery driver arrives with all my shopping I have a moment of delight that I’ve saved 2 hours of my time and someone else is huffing and puffing with all my bags, carrying my shopping into my flat. It’s genius!

Amazon began as an internet retailer of books and expanded to a wide variety of products and services, more recently video and audio streaming. is currently the world's largest Internet sales company in the world, as well as the world's largest provider of cloud infrastructure services, Amazon Web services.

Amazon’s success has grown with their customer’s desire for convenience. Their product marketplace is extensive, their move into video and audio streaming, Alexa and IOT, their acquisition of WholeFoods shows they are focused on the “whole customer journey.”

There are rumours that Amazon may soon be entering the healthcare market, specifically the prescription-drug market. Bloomberg reported on the 9th October that the US-based distribution giant is likely to start selling drugs as early as 2019. CNBC, instead, reported that Amazon could start on-line drug sales even this year.

(Source: Bloomberg)

I don’t want to focus on Amazon, but I’m using them to demonstrate their thinking. Their model demonstrates the value they bring to our lives as well as becoming a vital part of our day to day lives. We are becoming “Amazonians”!!! We live our lives alongside amazon, who facilitate our needs. It’s a brilliant business model, they metaphorically “own us”!

So park that thought for a moment and think about how the healthcare market has developed over the last 10 years. We have seen lots of activity in the digital health space, lots of exciting innovations and transformational products and services. But one thing that hit’s me is the sporadic nature of this journey. Focussing on one problem, one disease area, 1000s of possible solutions. 1000s of companies selling their transformational product to the same institutions. The same institutions that have to filter and sort and work out even if it’s worth justifying a business plan to spend money on an innovation with a company that has existing for less than 5 years, limited track record and limited funds.

We want our healthcare institutions to engage with innovation and introduce transformation to our care, but the risks of investment on both sides are huge.

This is what has always baffled me. Big Pharma: GSK, Novartis, Roche, Pfizer have a proven business model. Their research and development budgets are in the hundreds of millions, of course developing new drugs, clinical trials is expensive and takes a long time. But what if some of that money was re-directed into a new initiative. The model that is proving it’s value for Amazon.

What if the Pharma companies started to think about really “Owning the Patient Journey”.

Having worked in Pharma and devices for some of the biggest companies it’s easy to see why they are complacent. But as patents end, pipelines become weaker and revenues fall there is a need to make some changes. Those changes in my opinion could be quiet straightforward for big Pharma.

What if you redirected some of the R and D budget into digital transformation. Committed the same funds that lots of independent start-ups are now playing with $10 - $20 million, but with the infrastructure and relationships as a base. This could be transformational.

Big Pharma already have the customers. Millions of people on their therapies. But they currently are fairly ineffective in communicating with their customers. Regulation plays a big part in this, but why can’t they “own the patient journey”?

Patients are vulnerable, they need to be guided with reassurance by the GP/Physician/Nurse, trust plays a huge role in their care. Why can’t the Pharma companies be part of that circle? You are taking their drugs, but have no idea who they are! Pharma has the opportunity to slot themselves into the patient journey to support and manage the patient.

Patient expectations are changing rapidly, the timing is perfect for Pharma to engage with technology and really support patients directly.

How can Pharma engage their customers using technology?

  • Information Source: become the trusted and validated patient information source

  • Drug Compliance: help manage compliance by building an integrated alert system to remind the patient to take their drugs

  • Prescriptions: manage the prescription journey

  • Telehealth offerings: be the support network offering advice, opportunities to speak to experts about side effects, recommended diet and exercise and discuss concerns around their disease.

Alongside owning the patient journey this approach would also take huge pressure off “the system”, reducing the need for follow up consultations and helping the patients manage themselves with a credible support structure in place.

All these ideas exist, but are disparate in the marketplace in the form of 1000s of start up digital health companies. Big Pharma can aggregate these ideas in one stroke it just needs the will.

When Pharma really owns the customer journey think about the possibilities. Go back to what Amazon is achieving and how it’s innovating. This approach in collaboration makes opportunities for growth even greater and at the same time enhancing the whole patient experience.


Julie Pelta

With over 20 years experience in healthcare. From classic corporate roles through to consultancy and medical device distribution. Experience in working with Med-Tech product and service companies. From product innovation, delivering enhanced patient outcomes to digital service innovation.

About Us

Industry knowledge specialists who work across the vertical to minimize risk. We use our network and in-depth understanding of the system, and how to navigate it. We work in areas from Digital Health to Med-Tech; Education to Service provision; Commissioning to Investing; our experience is vast and track record impressive.

Activities undertaken with companies developing products :

Whether an SME or corporate, the need to build a proof of concept and validate the market early is essential. We believe “fail fast, change quickly” is the key to success and the only way to develop “market-ready” products at pace.

Activities undertaken with companies developing products:

• Market Validation

• Co-Design: Demonstrating demand side articulation of need

• Stakeholder Mapping

• NHS Readiness Assessment

Activities undertaken with companies investing in products:

Making objective decisions based on limited due diligence in an opaque marketplace like the NHS is tough and risky. Deep knowledge allowing for informed decision-making should be central to any investment strategy. We will provide the clarity needed.

Our due diligence services for companies investing:

• Opportunity Sizing

• Market Validation

• Risk Assessment

• Competitor Analysis

We will make sure that your organization is equipped with the tools to make the right decisions and that your product has the highest chances of success that it can. This includes support during product design, creation of your go-to-market strategy, managing stakeholder engagement and general understanding of the health economy.

With over 20 years of experience working with people that commission services and those that provide them, we understand the barriers and how to overcome them.

Being successful starts by clearly articulating your product or service and defining a precise problem that it solves. This is our core business. To help you become more successful.

We work with start-ups, SMEs and established corporates all at different stages of their product life cycles, but who all face similar challenges.

Contact Us:

+44 (0)7866 501 084

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