As the director of vaccines for our U.S. Pharmaceutical division, Matt Horton has a bird’s-eye view of healthcare’s changing landscape for both suppliers and customers. He sees the need for better access to vaccines and to quality healthcare in general. And as a parent, he knows firsthand what quality healthcare looks like. For him, it’s when everything from the insurance process to the provider’s bedside manner leave a patient (and a parent) feeling confident.

We sat down with him to discuss the latest trends in vaccines, the career path that led him here, and what he believes is the future of healthcare.

How would you describe your role at McKesson?

Horton: I’m the director of vaccines for our U.S. Pharmaceutical organization. My team oversees the entire process for our vaccine business, both on the supplier side—with us buying the product—and on the customer side, selling product.

Quote:Tomorrow's healthcare providers and organizations will need to continually adapt to offer the best patient experience. Matt Horton, PharmD, Director of Product and Vendor Management for VaccinesWhat’s your favorite part of your work? Something you’re most proud of?

Horton: One of the best parts of my job is how each day is vastly different from the one before. The vaccine team is one of the only business units that deals with both the supplier side and the customer side. That allows us a bird’s-eye view of the entire business and keeps the work varied. I like having that bigger-picture view of the process, too. It helps our team stay adaptable to changes in the industry and prepare for what the future of healthcare will bring.

In terms of something I’m proud of, as a pharmacist I’m passionate about vaccines and helping people lead healthier lives. And through the vaccines that we distribute, we’re able to help millions of people live better, healthier lives—just by providing access to the right immunizations.

What has your career path been like?

Horton: My career path has been a bit unorthodox, but it’s been a fun ride. After pharmacy school, I moved to Chicago and started my career with Walgreens. I worked my way up to become a pharmacy manager and ran a few different pharmacies as my own. From there, I made a slight shift and worked the front end of Walgreens as a store manager. I was promoted and started managing districts of pharmacies after that. Then, I shifted paths again and went to the Walgreens Corporate Office to manage its front-end diabetes and healthcare diagnostics business. Then I came to McKesson.

What are you working on now that you’re most excited about?

Horton: Right now my team and I are planning for the next flu season. Our manufacturers are working on producing the next vaccine. The FDA will start approving each lot pretty soon, and then the manufacturer can ship the vaccines to us. After that, we parcel it out and ship it to our customers. That’s going to start this month and will go on throughout the rest of this year. It’s an exciting time—I’ve been on the retail side of flu season but never on the distribution side. So I’m looking forward to getting this vaccine out and helping protect people from this year’s flu.

What’s the question customers ask you most often?

Horton: Lately, it seems like we get a call or email from someone every few hours asking how they can get the new shingles vaccine, SHINGRIX. It was a new vaccine that was launched last winter and it’s quickly reached blockbuster status. It quickly surpassed the manufacturer’s initial projections, so they’re having supply issues. Our customers are holding in there, but they’re beginning to get a little antsy on when they’re going to get their product.

What do you tell them?

Horton: Our goal is to make sure everyone gets their fair share of product and no one gets left out. So we want to make sure they all understand that. We usually explain the basics of how we determine allocation and then pass on any updates we get from the manufacturer on its projected timeline for having more supply. That communication is important when dealing with supply and demand. You have to communicate with your suppliers and customers and adapt to any situation that comes your way—like higher demand for a vaccine than you had planned.

What do you do to stay on top of your own health and wellness?

Horton: I love to run, and I’ve done four marathons in the past. But with some knee and hip issues and having kids, it makes those long training runs hard to get in now. So I still run, but now it’s shorter distances. I’ve tried other activities, but I prefer running—for both the physical and mental benefits.

If I were to go with you to the pharmacy, what might I find in your basket?

Horton: When I go to the pharmacy, I can’t help but look at all the new items and how the store is put together in general, because of my background. But I usually get the basics: dental care, vitamins, that sort of thing. If I bring my kids, though, there’s usually some candy or toys that somehow end up in the basket.

Can you tell me about a recent experience you’ve had with the healthcare system? It could be positive, negative or just eye-opening.

Horton: I had a thought a few weeks ago that resonated with me about how the right provider can completely alter the patient experience. I was driving one of my daughters home after a specialist appointment that was more than two hours long, and I was reflecting on the overall experience. When we arrived at the appointment, the waiting room was a mess. There were toys and books everywhere—it was a little crazy. When I got to the receptionist’s desk, there was form after form after form to fill out. After that, they took her vitals and had us sit in one room before we got pushed to the second patient room. And finally, about an hour after our scheduled appointment time, the specialist came in. And he just felt rushed and cold and a little disorganized.

Ultimately, I felt comfortable with his advice, but in the car afterward, I couldn’t help but compare this visit with a visit we had with a new pediatrician when we moved to Texas. While both visits were medically sound, the specialist visit was unorganized from the start and the provider felt overly clinical—not very personable. In contrast, our new pediatrician’s staff was prepared from the start, and the pediatrician was caring and attentive. When we were in the room with my daughter and the pediatrician, it almost felt like we were consulting a friend or family member. The steps of both visits were essentially the same. They both had to go through the insurance steps and medical history, of course, but the visits themselves couldn’t have been more different.

What do you think today’s patients need most when it comes to better care?

Horton: There’s so much information available to today’s patient, but there’s not always enough focused attention and guidance. I think we need to help patients sort through the surplus of information we have at our fingertips now, limit potential confusion, and help find the best decision for them.

What do you think is about to change in healthcare?

Horton: In a word, access. With new, nontraditional ways of receiving care, people have more options than ever when it comes to healthcare. Every other industry outside of healthcare is changing due to technology and an increased demand for access and convenience—so it’s no surprise that the future of healthcare must evolve to accommodate that as well. But it’s up to providers to make sure that amid this new landscape, patients still receive focused attention and guidance.

What do you hope will change when it comes to patient care?

Horton: Continuing to adapt to what the patient wants is now more important than ever. Whether that’s increased access to certain vaccines, more convenient ways to get test results, or more one-on-one time with the doctor—you have to be aware of what the patient wants from you. Tomorrow’s healthcare providers and organizations will need to continually adapt to offer the best patient experience.

Related: Learn more about McKesson’s vaccine solutions for pharmacies

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