Pharmacy in the C-Suite: A Trend Toward Systemic Gains

Increasingly, health systems are reaping the rewards of pharmacy leaders in the C-suite.

Read time:  2 minutes

By: Craig Dolan

For years, pharmacy leaders have worked to make their voice heard as a strategic resource within the health system. And increasingly, health systems are listening.

More directors of pharmacy (DOPs) now consult with hospital executives in the earliest stages of the revenue cycle. It’s a wise move, considering that pharmacy revenue represents upwards of 20–25% of the total revenue for some health systems. Many pharmacy leaders are stepping into newly created chief pharmacy officer roles, while others are proving the value of their expertise every day as chief (or just executive) executive officers of major health systems. It’s a trend that’s been a long time coming, bringing a rare blend of clinical, operational, and interpersonal expertise to the C-suite to elevate both patient care and business performance. Here’s why it matters.

Pharmacy is a microcosm of the health system

The pharmacy model involves a series of carefully orchestrated operational steps that put the patient first while maximizing efficiency and containing costs. On the clinical side, pharmacy leaders are well versed in dispensing clinically appropriate drugs, monitoring adherence, and tracking patient outcomes. On the business side, they understand the nuances and implications of cost-effective procurement, pragmatic stocking, and meticulous attention to coding and billing details. The same steps that go into a successful pharmacy operation are applicable to other service lines throughout the health system.

Pharmacy drives continuity of care among integrated services

As health systems continue to expand their focus on ambulatory services like community clinics, outpatient surgery centers, dialysis clinics, outpatient cancer treatment centers, and more, pharmacy is the common thread connecting these integrated services. Health system pharmacies with high prescription capture rates are well positioned to view the complete patient journey, giving pharmacists both the access and insight to support positive outcomes through medication adherence. The result is a consistent, comprehensive continuum of care that strengthens the health system overall by serving the whole patient. That’s something every health system C-suite can get behind.

Effective pharmacy leaders are effective leaders, period

The skills and qualities that make an effective pharmacy leader also make for a valuable C-suite member or ally:

  • Clinical expertise
  • Operational experience
  • Quick, well-informed decision-making
  • A detail-oriented work style
  • Champions of relevant technologies
  • Strong interpersonal skills
    • Educating patients on medications and following up on adherence
    • Persuading providers to consider alternate drugs where appropriate
    • Connecting patients with affordable avenues to pay for costly drugs

By including pharmacy professionals in strategic discussions and operational rollouts that affect the entire organization, health systems have a built-in resource to leverage the complexities of pharmacy as a valuable asset.

Evolution of Pharmacy Leadership in the C-Suite


  • Recently tapped to advise or join the C-suite
  • Attend meetings; run basic reports
  • Focus on a handful of high-value, high-impact medications


  • Gaining momentum in their expanded roles
  • Exploring new opportunities to grow through pharmacy
  • Devoting more human resources to reporting efforts


  • Well-established thought leaders
  • Implement software solutions to augment their insights
  • Leverage automation to flag issues and opportunities


  • Seasoned C-suite members with a focus on the future
  • Early adopters of AI and machine learning
  • Quick to remind other execs to include pharmacy in new rollouts; retrofits are costly and cumbersome

Sharing Strategies with ASHP Peers

Launched in September of 2022, Pharmacists in C-Suites (PICS) is a peer-focused group geared toward ASHP members whose roles within the health system go beyond those of the pharmacy practice. PICS was inspired by the growing number of pharmacy leaders serving at the highest levels of their health systems — as well as the enduring need for strategic collaboration among current executives and purposeful mentorship to mold future leaders.

Ready to help your C-suite achieve more?

If you’re looking to elevate the role of pharmacy to help your health system achieve more, contact McKesson. Our expert health system pharmacy advisors, along with our innovative software solutions and more, can help your C-suite amplify the opportunities of pharmacy throughout the organization so you can achieve more.

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