NB: This post was also posted on PEERR -

Sir Isaac Newton, famously once wrote If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants

It has become one of his most famous words for a reason. No progress would’ve been possible if everyone reinvented the wheel every single time. But when I talk to ambitious founders of HealthTech startups, I see them focusing on lots of stuff like their big idea, product development, and users' health data. All of which is quite logical but all this is of no use if there are no users.

And to get users, you need effective marketing and that’s not their focus.

These are all mistakes that Pharma has made and is learning its lesson. HealthTech now has two options: make the same mistakes again or stand on the giant’s shoulders.

As a professional who has a clear view of both industries, I believe that the HealthTech industry can learn a few valuable lessons from its older cousin, Pharma. Not because Pharma is smarter. It’s because Pharma has made more mistakes and learned from them to improve its marketing ROIs and build giant brands.

This post spotlights some key learnings HealthTech can derive from Pharma's marketing experiences. It focuses on the marketing and omnichannel realms where Pharma's maturity outstrips HealthTech's. The goal is to showcase specific ways Health Tech can "stand on the shoulders" of its predecessor industry to grow.

There Aren’t Many Differences

While Health Tech and Pharma are separate industries, there are some important similarities between the two. Here are the top 3 resemblances.

Goals - First and foremost, their overarching goal is common - to improve health outcomes. Every Pharma and HealthTech company exists to improve health outcomes, directly or indirectly.

Audience - The target audience automatically overlaps when the top goal is the same. Both industries’ audience consists of healthcare professionals (HCPs), patients, and/or their carers.

Regulatory pressures - Like the world of HealthTech, Pharma too is entangled in a web of regulatory requirements, all of which differ on a country-to-country basis. Anyone from both these industries can tell how important this similarity is.

Transferable Learnings

Drawing upon my extensive experience in both industries, I presently find myself at a vantage point that affords me a nuanced perspective on both.

Today I’m sharing a few key insights from the pharmaceutical industry, offering relevant lessons to HealthTech innovators. By learning from these experiences, they can sidestep disastrous pitfalls and hit their goals more efficiently - without burning their precious resources.

1. Emphasis on compliance and regulation

In the ambitious flow of a mission-driven startup, it’s not very difficult to push regulatory compliance aside. If you’ve just started, I beseech you to not make this deadly mistake. A compliance foul can end your show instantly. There's nothing to be afraid of but it’s of prime importance to always stay updated to the regulatory landscape and its constant changes. And this applies to not just how your app/system is ‘classified’ and the regulatory requirements there, but also how you market! 

2. Data-driven and unified Omnichannel strategies.

Data is your best friend when you’re navigating the digital world. Like Pharma, HealthTech needs to adopt data-driven strategies to segment their audiences and personalise messaging and outreach. Pharma excels at creating unified brand experiences across channels - online, medical conferences, doctor's offices, etc. Health Tech should follow suit with Omnichannel approaches to meet their audience where they are. Leverage data to guide marketing spends across channels for optimised allocation.

3. User-centric approaches

Pharma has evolved from a drug-centric model to become more HCP or Patient-centric. Understanding their user journeys and pain points to offer them practical solutions. HealthTech can adopt a similar mindset and develop products or services to cater to their user-specific needs. This means you’ll have to stand in their shoes, listen to their pains intently, and co-create. Doing so will significantly build trust and help you engage them effectively. A point to note here, your user might not be your customer - identifying this is crucial for your planning. 

As HealthTech startups, we are (rightly) focused on capturing consent to use data for analytical purposes. But consent is also key for ethical marketing and outreach.

Pharma obtains not just basic consent to capture health data, but also additional permissions for marketing and outreach purposes. This helps with more targeted, personalised communications. HealthTech should similarly focus on consent capture beyond basic needs, to fuel Omnichannel marketing. This allows for the entire customer journey to be optimised - without crossing privacy boundaries.


The HealthTech sector shows immense promise in transforming healthcare through innovation. However, there are critical lessons to be learned from the more mature pharmaceutical space when it comes to marketing, customer engagement, and brand-building. By standing on the shoulders of giants like Pharma, HealthTech can avoid costly errors and fast-track growth. 

How Can I Help?

Hi! I'm Hussain, founder of VZN Consulting - working across the Life Sciences and HealthTech industry, my approach is simple; Colaborate with the non-technical teams to understand your needs, and work with the digital/technical delivery teams to optimise delivery.

So, whether you're leading omnichannel and marketing efforts in a global Pharma/Life Science organisation, or a Clinician venturing into the Health-Tech startup world, we're here to support .

We don’t just help strategise - it's about turning your ambitious vision into a tangible, impactful reality.

// Click here to book a free discovery call with me.