Meet Deepak Thomas, the Founder of Phil

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Deepak Thomas is the founder and CEO of Phil. He started the company as patient zero after being diagnosed with a chronic illness in the late 90s and struggled to navigate his own care within the complex US healthcare system. Several years later, he applied his experience in tech to build a solution that expands and simplifies patient access to specialty drugs, while aligning economic incentives for therapy manufacturers. Today, Deepak describes his journey in starting Phil as a “team of one” to working with some of the largest manufacturers such as Bausch Health.

Why did you have the idea/vision to create Phil?

In the late 90s, a few months after moving to the US, I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease and it was very difficult to navigate access to therapies. Even though Lyme disease is a complex condition to treat, I found it astounding how “stacked against the patient” the US healthcare system is when it comes to navigating care. I had to spend a lot of lunch hours calling doctors and insurers and paid several thousands of dollars out of pocket to fund therapies as I waited for insurance to kick in. As I progressed through my professional career, with more exposure to the tech sector, I saw an opportunity to create a platform that might alleviate patient burdens when accessing their meds.

How did your professional background help navigate launching Phil?

I come from a technology and business background and over the last decade it became clear that tech was creating significant consumer value across sectors. There was a clear opportunity for someone to come in and create a solution able to reduce consumer (patient) friction and deliver well-informed access to medications particularly for complex conditions. While the healthcare industry is complicated and can’t simply be fixed by “tech,” understanding the business and economic shortcomings of the healthcare industry spurred me to envision what a tech solution might look like. 

What were the initial steps to get the idea for Phil off the ground?

The major challenge was getting a good understanding and perspective of the healthcare system in its entirety. At first I thought the major setback for the system was at the pharmacy level. I quickly came to the conclusion that the problem was far greater, and it was the disconnect between all the stakeholders involved in the process – the manufacturers, prescribers, insurers, pharmacies and patients. I thought “if only everybody involved knew what they needed to do at the appropriate point of time,” so that patients can receive therapies in a timely and painless manner. My goal was to create workflow efficiencies to connect the entire process and all the key players. Essentially that would involve the automation of certain processes to save time and money, combined with bespoke human intervention for troubleshooting and the more personal/one-on-one aspects of the care delivery process. 

I started the company as a team of one, I learnt how to code again and built a framework for the company over 8-9 months. From that point, I was able to raise funding and started building out the team, starting with my cofounder up to 155 employees today.

What types of companies/products typically benefit from Phil’s offering?

Specialty lite and specialty drugs are the niche that we serve across all therapeutic areas (TAs). Around 80% of drugs out there are generics and those don’t have significant access issues because they are not expensive. The more expensive therapies have significant hurdles to access and adherence. Right now Phil is breaking down access barriers for both specialty lite and specialty drugs in women’s and men’s health, dermatology, neurology, rheumatology, immunology, gastroenterology, infectious diseases, pediatrics, antiviral and cardiovascular indications among others and there is no aspect that ties Phil’s offering to a specific TA. See how Phil helped improve patient access to a women’s health drug

What are the main reasons (problems) spurring companies to seek Phil’s help?

The patient experience is the main frustration for manufacturers. They have built cutting edge science, expended capital to create awareness among prescribers, but when it comes to getting patients on therapy, the system is failing the patient. Anybody who has walked into a retail pharmacy knows there is more to be desired from that experience. 

Where do you see the company in the next couple of years?

Currently most of the manufacturers we work with are in the specialty lite segment, and we aim to strengthen our offering to manufacturers in the biologics and specialty segments. Those are tougher problems to solve, but our platform is built to work well across both segments. There is an expansion opportunity in specialty and biologics and we aim to have a strong presence there in the future.