Go-To-Market or Go-To-Patient Strategy?


This post is dedicated to Mr. Sanjiv Navangul who was the first to speak about ‘Go-To-Patient Strategy’. It is not ‘Go-To-Market’ but ‘Go-To-Patient Strategy’ for the pharma industry he said. And he walks his talk!   

62 years back Ted Levitt asked a very pertinent question in his article Marketing Myopia which was published in Harvard Business Review: “Do you know which business are you in? Do you know who your customers are?”

The same question is relevant to Pharma India today – “Which business are we in? Who are our customers?”

Undoubtedly, we are in the business of “Prescription generation by enhancing doctor and patient experience”. Having said that, patients also become our customers.

Fortunately, Pharma India is now waking up to the fact that you can no longer ignore patients, who are the true revenue generators for the pharma industry. It is the patients who ultimately pay for the products.

Doctors and patients-guided-by-doctors will be your customers.

Go-To-Patient Strategy

When you’re introducing a new product, the first thing which comes to your mind is strategy. And taking a cue from Ted Levitt, the most appropriate would-be keeping patients at the center of all activity. As Philip Kotler also writes: ‘Marketing is identifying the human problem and finding a human solution.’ Pharma marketers need to identify the real patient problem and find a solution.

A good Go-To-Patient Strategy should include

  • The USP, without losing sight of the needs of the patients
  • The value proposition, keeping the patient in mind
  • The STP
  • The brand plan with strategy an inbuilt strategy execution plan
  • Patient journey mapping with tactics to ensure a high level of pleasant patient experience at every stage of the journey

Creating a Go-To-Patient plan can prevent many of the mistakes and oversights that can tank a new product launch.

While a Go-To-Patient strategy may not be a guarantee to prevent failure, it can help you smoothen out any kinks before you invest in your brand-building activities.

A few things you need to remember in a Go-To-Patient strategy.

  • Product-market fit

This means being in a market where your product can satisfy the needs of that market. Identify a need in the market and develop a solution so compelling that doctors would love to prescribe it for their patients. Dynapar-QPS Spray is an excellent example of product-market-fit. Doctors wanted a gastric-irritation-free solution to diclofenac. Dynapar-QPS Spray directly reaches the site of inflammation and pre-empts gastric irritation.

  • Target audience

Your target audience refers to the doctors whom you have segmented and most likely want your product. Wrong segmentation means sending your resources down the drain.  The waste in resources is an epidemic in Pharma India and is a profit killer.  While segmenting and targeting, know the pain points and frustrations of the doctors and patients which your product can alleviate. What are the problems the patients and doctors are facing and how does your product help?

  • Competition and demand

You need to study the competitive environment. Do a SWOT-AP analysis of the top brands. Find a weakness in their strength. Will you be able to address that strength?  What if the market is over-saturated? How will you tackle this?

Also consider and ask yourself: “Can I create a new segment and a new market”. If you can do that, you are creating a blue ocean where you will be the sole swimmer for a long time, or at least for some time?

  • Accessibility

Your product should be available to a great mass of people at a reasonable cost. Your product should also be safe. Accessibility also includes distribution both online and offline. Make sure your product is available at e-commerce sites too.

Now, let’s get started. Below is my step-by-step guide to building your own Go-To-Patient strategy.

  • Map the patient journey. Every stage of the patient journey should be considered as an opportunity to maximise positive patient experience. Identify the pain points at each stage and address them. Patient journey mapping gives insights into the patient experiences during their care journey in a healthcare facility. You can locate the potential blind spots.
  • If the patient experience is negative, identify the reason for this. For example, are patient advocacy groups missing? Does the patient get an opportunity to meet ‘patients like me’? Why is this necessary? 

Let us listen to an actual patient. “When diagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, I felt overwhelmed and as if I was alone in the world. I joined the Parkinson’s disease club supported by a pharma company where I met ‘patients like me’ and found there were many others with my condition. I felt such relief I was not alone. I could communicate so freely with them and that helped me a lot”.

And that patient was none other than my late father. The emotional support he got from ‘patients like me’ was so tremendous which we the caregivers at home couldn’t offer.

  • Patient adherence to medication is an important component when you are mapping the patient journey.  Improving medication adherence will give you a competitive edge and should be an integrated in your Go-To-Patient strategy. Patient adherence to prescribed medication significantly affects healthcare costs. 

Non-adherence to prescribed medication is a serious problem because it affects positive health outcomes. Just imagine the loss of revenues to the pharma industry extrapolating the Capgemini report to the universe. It is a staggering US $395 billion every year for the world. A bit of back-calculation would mean about Rs. 87000 crores every year or about 50 percent of the prescription market in the Indian Pharma Market. 

  • Handling side-effects is another issue in patient’s experience in the patient journey mapping. Prescription drugs do heal you when you’re sick, ease your pain and prevent or control long-term conditions. Despite the great strides made by the pharma industry, a drug without unwelcome side-effects is still far away.

This can cause a lot of concern not only to the patient but even the caregiver at home. Patient education and caregiver education can help a lot in handling side effects. For instance, when a cancer patient is on chemotherapy or radiation therapy, adequate information must be provided to both to know if the problem is because of the disease or the therapy. This will mitigate the emotional side of the problem.    

  • Caregiver education too should be a part of the patient journey mapping.

They are a powerful yet ignored entity in the patient journey? Does anyone really recognize them and their value in the healthcare system?

As Covid and Omicron cases increase, more and more patients with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, the number of caregivers continues to rise, and it’s crucial that pharma companies support caregivers and their pivotal role in patient care.

A ‘Go-To-Patient’ strategy should therefore address the human problem, the patient’s problem. This will give you a tremendous competitive edge.

Written by:

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Vivek Hattangadi – Chief Mentor at
PharmaState & The Enablers

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