I build my Phage first. Getting the extra 200hp really helps you get kills in early laning when people are surprised they can't burst you down. Tanks exchanging slugs with you only to find they're slipping.
With meditate it really lets you stay in the lane all day.
I find I can't really get as many kills as I would like without some kind of slowing (unless you rely on lizard buff)
If you are taking a lot of hits, you are probably overly aggressive, or you are alpha striking heroes instead of front row creeps. Targeting the front row creeps can still allow you to hit heroes, and it teleports you back to a safer place.