• coneill17

Being a Pharmacist and a MBA at a Digital Health Startup



Someone asked me what it was like to be a pharmacist and a MBA at a digital health startup? At a high level it is very rewarding, but equally complex and challenging with its own unique set of intricacies.


I understand that working as a Pharmacist and as a Chief Operating Officer with a digital health startup is a fairly non-traditional way to practice pharmacy. However, when you have the opportunity to help reduce the impact of the opioid crisis which has destroyed the lives of friends and colleagues, it becomes an amazing opportunity to apply experiences and education to help collaborate on an incredibly relevant challenge. 


As a pharmacist who is business oriented, the critical contribution you can make to a digital health startup is pretty simple. Articulating your clinical understanding of where current treatment guidelines stand, their challenges, what direction they are headed, and where your product will fit best to maximize impact are the insights which provide the direction the organization may have been unsure of and kick things into gear. Additionally, you can help guide iterations of the proof of concept (POC) to ensure clinical relevance and ease of implementation which are considerations that can surprisingly be overlooked in teams without clinical oversight. There are also significant contributions you can make from a marketing perspective such as, understanding current clinical pain points, market approach, and how to best articulate your solution.  


As a business oriented pharmacist (see how I did that), you can provide guidance on how to take your solution and convert it into a business model that fits into the complex healthcare system. This understanding of where the opportunities and dead ends are helps keep the organization on track to reaching revenue faster.


The largest change for me was the culture, and that is not to say the culture in previous roles was necessarily bad, just different. Deliberations made last minutes and days ahead, not weeks and months and keeping the team working on the most relevant things more constantly. Decisions that are made tend to be much more impactful than in larger organizations, which means you need to get things right as there is not a lot of wiggle to set off down the wrong path. There is also not a lot of skill set overlap, so we depend on each other more and it has helped build a stronger team overall. 


I find working at a digital health startup a fulfilling way to practice pharmacy. It allows me to leverage my clinical knowledge, connect with patients, and interact with pharmacy leadership at the crucial level to help solve really challenging problems. At the same time I help design an organization that needs to thrive in the healthcare setting which has its own host of unique challenges. I am happy to connect if you are a pharmacist looking for additional insight on startup culture or if your startup is looking for pharmacy insight!


Take care and goodbye for now,


Collin O’Neill, MBA, RPh, BCNP



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