Meghann Chilcott worked as a pharmacy technician while also majoring in pre-pharmacy at college, but her career path took an unexpected, swift turn toward medical tech. “I loved the robot and the machines,” she says. “The pharmacist I worked with recommended that I go into IT.” Chilcott had worked in pharmacy at Walmart and the Sacred Heart Health System before she pivoted toward the world of technology, but without leaving pharmacy behind. Now, she’s spent almost two decades shaping digital environments to ensure that medicines are distributed to patients in need.
The IT leader continues to see a dynamic future in the pharmaceutical industry. Last fall she joined OrderInsite, a prescription drug inventory solutions company, where she’s applying predictive analytics and forecasting. “The big focus now is analytics. It’s all about data,” says Chilcott, the organization’s senior vice president.
Previously, as vice president of IT innovation at Fred’s Inc., she oversaw the healthcare technology strategy for the discount retail and pharmacy chain. That’s where she implemented a pharmacy data warehouse and pricing tool, and also saved the company half a million dollars through vendor management last year alone.
However, the industry is entering a new phase, according to Chilcott. Previously, companies spent years collecting and storing information in massive data warehouses. Today, companies are employing advanced technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) to make use of the data at a rapid rate and on a massive scale.
Chilcott also notes that the industry is increasingly patient-centric, a user-friendly trend that shows no signs of stopping. “Patients have mobile apps to compare pricing on medications,” she says. “They can use mobile apps to refill medications, conduct physician visits, schedule their immunizations, and compare insurance plans.”
Chilcott also points to an evolution in the way reimbursements are covered. Pharmacies are now being reimbursed from insurance companies based on patients’ health results. “So, now we’re focusing on how we can keep patients on the therapies,” she explains. “We’re going to see a bigger focus on centralizing technologies, improving our processes, and trying to ensure the patient has the best possible outcome.”
Chilcott cites the recent use of 3-D printing of medications, such as Spritam, and how it has the potential to boost accessibility when printed on demand for patients. Plus, smart medications such as sensory-enabled pills gather information once swallowed and notify pharmacists and caregivers. Such cutting-edge ideas are ushering in a new era of personalized medicine.
Consider the integration of pharmacogenomics (the study of the role of the genome in drug response) into the pharmacy dispensing process. Pharmacists can offer the testing and then utilize the genetic data for future prescription usage, according to Chilcott. Genetic data can reveal a patient’s risk for adverse effects or the likelihood that the drug is beneficial to the patient at all. Ultimately, it ensures that patients take the medications that are best for them.
Chilcott sees AI as a future power player in pharmacy—for example, in the case of clinical trials. She explains that besides cutting costs, improving trial quality, and reducing trial times by almost half, AI is finding biomarkers and gene signatures that cause diseases, recruiting eligible clinical trial patients in minutes, reading volumes of text in seconds, and identifying trial candidates through social media and doctor visits.
“Someday pharmacists may act more like keepers of blueprints for medications,” she says. “It will change how wholesalers distribute to pharmacies as well.”
To make such advancements, Chilcott believes in teamwork, learning, and execution. As a whole, she urges the need to “be great at whatever you do,” and her background reflects that willpower. Chilcott received a BS in information technology from the University of West Florida, and then earned her MBA. And she’s not done yet, as she’s looking to another way to further bring innovation to pharmacy: she’s currently finishing her second master’s degree, studying biomedical informatics at Nova Southeastern University. “There’s so much more to learn,” she says.
Wherever she’s worked, Chilcott has strived to assemble talented teams that aren’t afraid of tackling any obstacle. That requires open communication, she says. “I speak pharmacy. I understand the business,” she says. “I think we’re going to see a lot more liaisons, IT people completely embedded in the business, and vice versa. Without that integration, we won’t understand what each other is trying to accomplish.”
Balancing immediate needs with long-term IT strategy can be easy, according to Chilcott. She puts time aside quarterly to reassess how effectively the team is working toward long-term goals. She recommends having an annual strategy meeting where the business shares its goals with the technology team, which aligns strategy and ensures that the IT strategy is still relevant. She likens her leadership style to mentorship, allowing team members autonomy to make mistakes while giving them guidance when course correcting. Chilcott aims to join an advisory council or board to further contribute expertise to growing companies.
And at OrderInsite, she’s already plugged in to the next few years. Chilcott intends to expand the company’s products to propel the ascent to the leading inventory management service for community, specialty, and hospital pharmacies. But today, the IT leader knows she’s right where she should be.
“Follow your passion. Don’t be afraid of trying something new or stepping outside your comfort zone. I enjoy waking up every day to tackle new challenges,” she says. “Follow your passion, and you will naturally excel and opportunities will present themselves.”