5 Questions with McKesson President Kirk Kaminsky


McKesson and their people have been instrumental in keeping the world moving through the coronavirus pandemic. The company delivers one-third of prescription medicine in North America, and serves more than 2 million customers every day in Europe. They provide the right medicines and supplies to the people who need them most, safely and cost-effectively. Interbrand NY’s Daniel Binns talks with McKesson President of Pharmaceutical Solutions and Services Kirk Kaminsky about how the brand is shaping the future of health care.

The company is paying close attention to trends such as telemedicine and the growing scope of practice for pharmacists. How do you see these trends influencing McKesson going forward?

One of the great things about healthcare today is that there is just a ton of innovation happening. Healthcare at large produces 20% of all GDP in the US, and a lot of that profitability ends up going back into innovation. Cancer continues to be a huge challenge for our society and for patients, unfortunately, but if you look at all the money that’s being invested in oncology data and insights and the innovation of the drug pipeline, it’s truly remarkable. There are a lot of opportunities to make oncology care more personalized, and to use biomarkers and better data and testing to drive better results.

Telemedicine is another growth area that has been accelerated due to the realities of COVID-19. We were doing very little telemedicine before COVID, primarily because the regulatory environment was prohibitive. Now, with the regulatory environment adapting to needs of COVID, practices are seeing significantly more telemedicine patients each week. The fact that providers and patients can stay at home and not risk going out, yet still see each other and do many of the things you would do at a visit—that’s a huge driver and enhances the overall quality of healthcare to these patients. With the community practices that we support in The US Oncology Network, we love to play a role in helping to facilitate the development of these important areas. And we’re starting to see them take hold as sustainable solutions, not just short-lived trends.

When it comes to the growing scope of practice for pharmacists, we’ve seen the importance of this during COVID as well. Pharmacists play a vital role in public health, and increasing their scope of practice helps them relieve some of the load on the healthcare system. Our Health Mart independent pharmacy franchise has partnered with government agencies to offer drive-thru COVID-19 testing. These pharmacies have also acted as an adjunct provider for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) that are overwhelmed with patients, to ensure these patients have their medications.

There’s an expectation that as we move through this crisis, there will be an inevitable significant amount of M&A activity. Do you think you’re likely to be a player in that?

We’re now 185 years old, and I think we’re pretty aware of the things that we do well and where we can build solutions. At times we’ve done acquisitions that fit within our strategy to drive acceleration, but we don’t buy companies just to buy them. If there are opportunities that fit within our strategic priorities and we believe they can help us get there faster or more efficiently, we will absolutely look for them.

McKesson has seen its way through health crises before (i.e. H1N1, SARS, Hurricane Katrina, etc.) What specific learnings from these incidents have your teams applied as you address the COVID-19 crisis?

One of the things I love most about this company is the way we rally around a crisis, whether it’s H1N1, where we helped with vaccine distribution, or SARS or Hurricane Katrina. The company always makes sure that we do one thing—maintain the integrity of the supply chain—because we know that if we can’t keep the supply chain going, patients won’t get access to the medications or the supplies they need.

We also try to see the human side of any situation. The thing that allows us to rally every time is just remembering that patient on the other end and the role we play in healthcare. Even with the social injustice issues going on around the country, it’s essential to hone in on that human side.

Something else that I’ve taken away from COVID is that when you laser focus on a single goal, there is so much power in that. When we can focus energy on things that really matter, we can move mountains.

Decisive leadership is also critical. I find myself making more decisions with less information, but at McKesson one of our three enterprise values or behaviors is to “debate, decide and commit.” At many moments over the course of COVID-19, we’ve had to make a decision without a ton of information. If it’s the wrong decision, we will reverse course, but I think that in a time of crisis, one of the biggest pitfalls is not making decisions because you’re just not moving the ball.

And the last piece is eliminating the distractions, really streamlining the things you’re trying to get done. What I love about these crises is that you have an opportunity to put clarity of mission and vision into immediate action.

The expectation of transparency that companies live within has been growing over the last 10 years or so and it just got more and more. CEOs were perhaps more focused on analysts, investors and reporters but now the employee group is a really critical stakeholder.

The world is changing, and a CEO who is untouchable can’t exist in the future. We’re incredibly lucky to have a leader in Brian Tyler who is down to earth, pragmatic and approachable. People want to be included and have a voice. You can’t shut that down. I’m excited to see how things evolve, and there’s no question that 2020 is going to look very different moving forward. 

What do stakeholders understand most about your brand today?

Simplicity and clarity of mission help with everything. We have two priorities: maintain the integrity of the supply chain and keep our people safe and healthy. When you know exactly what you want to do, it makes everything else clearer and that helps tremendously. When it’s this simple, it’s energizing. And going back to why people are so engaged right now, I think they have a renewed sense of our role in the supply chain and how critical we are—whether it was working with the government to get gloves and masks over from China, or getting patients what they needed when there was a shortage of drugs for people on ventilators. We would just drop everything and figure out how to get it.

For the most part, B2B stakeholders understand that we play a critical role in the supply chain. They view us as incredibly focused on operational excellence. We touch 100 million patients every day, and they understand that the ecosystem as it exists today would fail without us. Our customers’ worlds have become more complicated, so we help them solve the day to day challenges of healthcare. Our mission and vision are to really drive healthcare solutions for providers so they can be more effective at providing patient care. Historically, distribution was core, but our vision going forward is to be something much bigger, which is a solutions provider across the healthcare ecosystem.

McKesson needs to be seen in a different way. As we evolve as a company, our aspirations are higher, and we’ll need to find ways to evolve our brand and prove that we are much more than just a distribution company.


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