Meet the innovator: Adam HunterJune 15, 2021
Pictured above: Adam Hunter, Chief Commercial Officer at Phlo Digital Pharmacy.
Tell us about your innovation in a sentence
Phlo Digital Pharmacy allows consumers to manage their NHS and private prescriptions online, track the order in real-time and have it delivered within hours via Phlo’s same-day delivery service.
What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?
Nadeem Sarwar who founded Phlo Digital Pharmacy had a regular monthly prescription and was frustrated with the pharmacy experience which didn’t suit his lifestyle: rigid opening hours, stock shortages, queues, incomplete prescriptions and numerous trips to the GP. Nadeem had seen far more advance digital pharmacy services in the USA which focused on providing a superior patient experience.
The online pharmacy market in the UK is still in its infancy. However, it was clear that one of the major barriers to wider patient adoption was the uncertainty around receiving medication in the post. Nadeem decided that Phlo needed to have Pharmacy hubs in every city Phlo operated in providing an on-demand, same-day service with its own couriers delivering medication to our patients. Phlo launched its service in London in late 2019 and was the first online pharmacy to offer such a service.
What three bits of advice would you give budding innovators?
There is so much to learn when trying to disrupt an existing sector or bring new innovation to the market. However, at a very high level anyone trying to innovate in the healthcare space regardless of what service/product you are developing never forget the “three pillars of digital healthcare”. In my opinion, all three pillars must be present for a truly world class digital healthcare experience.
- Great Patient/Customer Service: your innovation must provide the best in class in terms of patient/customer experience. For a healthcare innovation to stand the test of time your offering must genuinely improve the patient and/or clinician experience. Your product or service should always be laser focused on delivering this outcome.
- Great Engineering: assuming your innovation is a digital one, great engineering is key to ensure your product does what you say it does. If your service/product is not built to be robust and scalable it doesn’t matter how great your innovation is, it will fail. Great engineering is the platform for your innovation to grow and disrupt an existing market/sector.
- Great Design: your service/product has to be easy/intuitive to use removing any frictions from the process that may stop patients/customers from adopting or continuing to use the product or service. A user-centred design approach in healthcare is vital for long-term adoption and the retention of users.
What’s been your toughest obstacle?
Establishing credibility and trust. As a new business in the healthcare space with no track record in the Pharmacy sector, we had to and still have to work very hard every day to ensure Phlo is delivering the service we promised to our patients. In general, the healthcare sector is very much based on the level of trust between the patient and the service provider. Our “north star” at Phlo is providing superior patient care and service. The whole team at Phlo is responsible for delivering on this which has helped establish trust with our patients and potential patients.
We have adopted tools such as Trustpilot to allow our patients to provide honest feedback about our service so we can improve our offering. On a personal level, it is great to see Phlo rated as “Excellent” on Trustpilot and the positive impact our service has had on the health of our patients is fantastic.
What’s been your innovator journey highlight?
Our initial vision for Phlo was an on-demand Pharmacy service with rapid delivery of medications to our patients within hours, from our pharmacy to their door. This is a classic business-to-consumer (B2C) model. However, we quickly realised we had built a first in class full stack Pharmacy infrastructure platform that other healthcare providers could use to provide a digital Pharmacy experience to their patients. Healthcare providers can plug directly into our Pharmacy platform and offer the Phlo service to their patient base. For example, Phlo has partnered with Babylon Health to be their Pharmacy partner for its private patient base enabling Babylon to offer its patients an end-to-end digital healthcare experience from consultation to prescription fulfilment.
For a young business like Phlo to partner with one of the world’s leading telemedicine providers was a great vote of confidence in Phlo that we were offering a service/solution that both healthcare providers and patients valued.
Best part of your job now?
For me, it is knowing that we have helped thousands of patients access their medication during a global pandemic safely and securely. Phlo has played a small role in the fight against Covid-19, but I am very proud of the entire team for delivering such a vital service during the past 15 months.
At the beginning of 2020, we had 12 members of staff, this has now increased to 50. I get a real kick out of scaling the company, creating new jobs and witnessing individual team members grow and develop. It’s a privilege to work with such a talented and diverse group of people at Phlo.
If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?
The NHS is probably one of the last institutions in the UK that has almost unanimous backing from the public. For the NHS to continue to provide the service that we will need in the future, we need to assess the regulator barriers and processes that digital healthcare companies must navigate. At the moment a lot of the regulations in the healthcare sector were created for the “analogue world” not the “digital world”. We need a root and branch review of how digital healthcare companies are regulated and integrated into the NHS which balances the needs for patient safety and the need to deploy innovative services quickly and efficiently to improve the overall performance of the NHS.
Collaboration and engagement at a government and administrative level with digital healthcare companies is vital if we are to provide the right conditions for the NHS to thrive in the 21st Century.
A typical day for you would include…
No day is the same at Phlo. It can be incredibly busy, and you have to be able to spin several plates at once. My role touches on most areas of the business and I love how varied the work can be. I may start the day looking at our marketing strategy, contribute to our product roadmap, assist Nadeem with raising finance and investor relations, developing new areas of the business and implementing our hiring strategy. Every day is a school day and I love this about my role.
Where can we find you?