Read / Write Pharma Part 5: Learning from Transport

Digital transforms and rewires industries without remorse. Transport can give us clues about what the future of pharma can look like. 

This is post 5 of 6 in our our read/write pharma series based on Dominic Pride’s keynote at Giant Health. 

When Pharma Giles and Digital Harriet tried to work together in our previous post they couldn't see a way forward. We asked them to look outside their business at how digital is changing transport.

We could’ve looked at telecoms, content, entertainment or financial services but one of the apps that Unwell Ilse uses to get from her home to her job in central London is Citymapper. And it might give us some clues as to how we could begin to build services which can bind molecules and algorithms together.

Take a look at our screengrabs we marked up in Skitch - one of our 27 tools in the Upstart toolkit.  Citymapper brings different journey types together in a single customer experience. Down the bottom you’ll see London Transport Information. Tubes and buses aren’t digital things. They’re made of metal and weigh tons. Yet London transport exposes APIs about real-time movement of its trains and buses and tubes.

If Ilse wanted to walk, Citymapper would tell her how long it would take. (Cycling in London means risking certain death so forget it).


But underneath we see how Uber, the poster child for disruptive businesses, sits alongside the old school Metropolitan Transport Authority content. And next to that, is a service from Gett Taxi which provides new ways for customers to interact with London’s black cabs.

And if we go one or two screens deeper on the right something really interesting happens.

We can see new business models are emerging.

We’ve got Citymapper’s Green Bus which looks like a bus but behaves more like a taxi. Then we’ve got a Black Buses which is - you guessed it - black cabs offering fixed distance, fixed route, fixed price ride-sharing.

What’s going on here is what we’ve seen across just about every industry that digital touches. The first thing to be transformed is the way in which customers access the underlying asset.

And then digital transforms the actual asset which is being bought or provided.

What you’re not seeing on this picture is the massive data opportunity being generated through millions of rides and journey is being made across more than 20 global locations.

Let’s Start Imagining What’s Possible for Health

So it doesn’t take much of a stretch of imagination to see what might be possible for health. We can replace iron buses and trains which are tracked by sensors with carbon life forms and track them with wearables and sensors.

Let’s imagine MediMapper like Citymapper. And just as buses and taxis can swap places, what would happen if drugs and digital services swap places?

Distribution 171128_Upstart_Pride_Giant Health16TO9(6).png

What if Extendane became more like a service? With continuous updates? What if Digilive itself was the primary therapy? How could could patients move seamlessly between the two or use them together?

And lastly what business models could be generated? What value is the combined opportunity of this real world data if only on an aggregated basis?

What’s the potential for Pharma to work hand-in-hand with providers and payers to update protocols in real time like Sentrian is proposing?

So What?

  • Different transport providers publish information via APIs which can come together in third party experiences.
  • This enables old school and new providers to coexist and generate new business models using existing assets.
  • Tracking health users can use similar tools and processes as tracking buses. This can be a way for services to collaborate. We just need to think and imagine.
Dominic Pride