Drive for Improved Healthcare Tech is a Silver Lining of the Pandemic, says McKesson CTO

Nancy Flores, who also serves as EVP and CIO, says her company is looking for ways to leverage data to better serve customers and patients.

To say Nancy Flores hit the ground running last year is an understatement. 

Tech Guru

Nancy Flores

At the start of 2020, she began a multi-faceted position at Irving-based McKesson as EVP, CIO, and CTO. It was her job to oversee technology initiatives—software, infrastructure, application development, cybersecurity—for the provider of wholesale medical supplies, pharmaceutical distribution, and healthcare tech. But six weeks into a new job and city, the pandemic hit. Flores and her tech teams had to reprioritize overnight, addressing systems and infrastructure in new ways to rapidly tackle the rise in PPE demand and dynamic supply chain activity. Now she plays a big part in McKesson’s partnership with the CDC to support Operation Warp Speed as a distributor of COVID-19 vaccines and supplies. Tech is crucial to that. “For years, the healthcare industry has talked about shifting into more digital channels to optimize the industry,” she says. “I think that’s the silver lining: This is going to change and drive digital and an inherent level of efficiency. That’s going to be a good thing after COVID.”

A veteran of the healthcare industry, Flores is passionate about making a difference for patients, caregivers, and professionals.

Meet the innovator

Nancy Flores was featured in Dallas Innovates’ Future 50 in Dallas-Fort Worth in the 2021 edition of our annual magazine. We talk with the technology multi-tasker about innovation, the impact of COVID-19, and plans for the future. Here’s a takeaway:

On McKesson’s top developments of 2020:

There are a few developments and innovations I’d like to highlight – Team McKesson has been at the forefront of many great projects.

First, McKesson recently launched a new business, Ontada, that makes technology and insights actionable and available to providers and biopharma companies at critical moments in the oncology decision-making process. By promoting more informed care, we believe Ontada will help transform the fight against cancer.

Additionally, through Computer Vision, Deep Learning, and other AI, McKesson developed a solution to automate the management and replenishment of stockroom inventory for health systems and large non-acute care settings. When inventory gets low, the cloud-based AI platform initiates an order to our e-commerce platform automatically. This leads to reduced labor in counting and visual inspections and makes reordering effortless.

Finally, COVID-19 has impacted everyone. McKesson’s role in supporting its customers with personal protective equipment (PPE) when the pandemic first struck provided some immediate challenges that allowed our teams to develop innovative solutions. When PPE became in short supply, our technology teams worked closely with our business units to develop an ordering system that allowed our commercial teams to reallocate PPE in real-time to organizations in desperate need. This change allowed us to reallocate over 26 million products to customers with the greatest need.

On the multiple challenges of the company’s COVID-19 response:

McKesson plays an essential role in providing personal protective equipment (PPE), medical and surgical supplies, and medicines to hospitals, pharmacies and clinics. When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, it became clear that technology was foundational to our continued success. Our biggest challenges were to continue to deliver on our strategic technology investments to meet our pre-COVID business imperatives while responding to the urgent call to action overnight. Like many companies we needed to transition much of our workforce to a work-from-home environment and we needed to do this with a high level of compliance as it relates to data, patient privacy, and security controls. 

While transitioning to remote work, we also had to scale our core distribution systems to begin to accommodate unprecedented volumes of PPE orders. And later in the year, after we were selected by the CDC as a centralized distributor for COVID-19 vaccines and ancillary supply kits, we had to expand and implement new infrastructure and systems with a robust security and compliance foundation to support the distribution.

It’s amazing to see the call to action of our McKesson teams, the collaboration with our key technology partners, and our strong collaboration across government agencies who were key to helping our teams move fast. I am grateful to my team for their tremendous effort, working evenings and weekends, to prepare for the complexities of safely distributing COVID-19 vaccines on a large scale. The “one team” mentality focused on common outcomes drove our ability to remain flexible and pivot as needed.

On what’s next for McKesson:

I am excited that technology and data are at the core of McKesson’s growth strategy. The healthcare industry has entered a period of immense transformation, driven by connectivity, big data, AI, and automation. As companies like ours have had to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis, the pace of innovation continues to accelerate. Every business strategy is now shaped by technology, which drives the patient experience and how we service the healthcare market. We are focused on how we can continue to leverage data and technology to improve how we service customers and patients.

The innovation coming from within McKesson is just one component. We also need to integrate into our broader communities to build sustainable momentum. My senior leadership is based in Las Colinas. Dallas offers so much, and we are excited to be part of the diversity, the growth and the increasing innovation of technology. Having a concentration of strong technology leaders is key to helping McKesson partner and collaborate with the broader Dallas community to amplify how we improve care for patients.   

A version of this story was originally published in Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue.

Read it online

Our fourth annual magazine, Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue, highlights Dallas-Fort Worth as a hub for innovation. The collective strength of the innovation ecosystem and intellectual capital in Dallas-Fort Worth is a force to be reckoned with.

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