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Unleashed - How to Thrive as an Independent Professional

May 22, 2023

Show Notes:

John Driscoll is the President of Walgreens Boots Alliance and the co-host of the second largest healthcare podcast on YouTube, CareTalk. In this episode, host Will Bachman welcomed John to the show. John has extensive experience in the healthcare industry, having played a leading role in creating successful companies like MedCo, Surescripts, Oxford Health Plans, and Care Centrix. John discusses topics such as monkeypox, mask mandates, baby formula shortages, Silicon Valley Bank's failure, and healthcare related topics. He also shares his  opinions on a variety of healthcare issues. 

The Future of Pharmacies 

John started his career in health care after being influenced by his mother, a nurse. After college, he developed housing programs for homeless and mentally ill people. He then became a management consultant, before moving to Asheville Health Plan. He has worked in multiple parts of the health industry spectrum, gaining experience in Medicare and Medicaid. 

He has found his career to be full of big and challenging problems, but is motivated to improve the world and create successful businesses. His main initiatives involve investing in Village MD, Summit, and Espadin Shield Specialty Pharmacy to show how an integrated pharmacy and clinical model can improve outcomes at lower cost. Walgreens is also working with health plans and has 9000 stores and 90,000 clinicians to provide access and convenience, trust, and traffic. Their goal is to become essential in healthcare by leveraging their expertise in retail and pharmacy services.

He discusses how pharmacies can become better partners to health plans by taking advantage of their advantages in brand marketing, trust, convenience, and patient specificity.

He shares  a specific example of how a large regional health plan achieved a return rate of three times greater on colorectal screenings than before they partnered with the pharmacy. The pharmacy was also able to increase the rate of colorectal screenings up to 51% in underserved areas due to the support of non-clinical personnel in their stores. Additionally, the pharmacy is partnering with health plans to reduce admissions to nursing homes by 20% through nurse visits, follow-ups, and care navigation. The system leads to better patient and contact information.  Overall, the pharmacy is providing an invaluable service in helping health plans lower costs while improving outcomes. He explains how his company invests in bespoke automation machines to allow pharmacists to spend more face-to-face time with patients, and how pharmacists could be more involved and take on more responsibility in the treatment of patients and how this would expand access to more care in an overburdened health system.

Pharmaceutical Healthcare,  the Pandemic, and Value-based Care

John reflects on  health regulations and restrictions and also the risk taking and flexibility that came into place under the COVID pandemic. He confirms how important it is to prepare for pandemics in terms of vaccine supplies, communication, and pre-deploying and integrating national and state employees in operations. He also notes the critical role of pharmacies in crisis situations. He tackles the issue of employee burnout and the current pharmacist shortage and the steps Walgreens is taking to solve the problem across states.

On value-based care, he explains how it is the future, especially in the U.S. where healthcare is more expensive than any country in the world, how this is unacceptable, and how this should be approached to address health issues earlier to avoid hospitalization. 

The CareTalk Podcast 

John talks about the inspiration and intention of his podcast, what the content is and what has surprised him throughout the conversations. Guests that have been on his podcast include Andy Slavitt, Zeke Emanuel, Tony Cosgrove, and Amy Abernathy. When asked what he learned from his guests,  John shares that he was surprised to find out that even though healthcare is very complicated and people are in silos, there is still room for novel and provocative opinions that can be explained. He also found out that everybody knows that drug costs are too high, but there are practical ways to bring them down without destroying the biotechnology industry that is creating new drugs to cure aging and extend lifespans.  The podcast explores various issues surrounding health care and how to best address them. Toby Cosgrove from the Cleveland Clinic brought up the importance of creating heart-centered care in a large inner city hospital. It was noted that there are a lot of people working on solutions to healthcare problems, such as telehealth and AI to solve labor shortages. He also touches on the potential for AI and Chat GPT to be used in health care. While it is still early days, he mentions that there have been some companies experimenting with using these tools.

Health Care and AI

John talks about the impact of artificial intelligence on healthcare. He believes that AI has the potential to reduce administrative costs and waste in healthcare by simplifying billing and reconciliation processes. He also believes that AI can help in drug discovery, clinical pathways, and personalized care.  He is looking forward to having guests on CareTalk with whom he can discuss the economy, healthcare costs, and the pandemic's effect on inflation.

He wants to discuss  the current chaotic economic landscape that is impacting healthcare, and the labor industry in particular. He mentions the growth of traveling nurses who are paid by private equity firms and how hospitals have had the worst six months financially in US history.

He sources his information from HealthTech Nerds,  the Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Health Affairs, and Jim and Science,  the MIT Tech Review, Science and Cell, all as good sources of information. He suggests Kaiser Family Foundation and Kaiser Health News as exceptional sources, as well as government sources such as CMS for basic data.


03:20 Walgreens Boots Alliance's Healthcare Initiatives

06:35 Partnering with Health Plans to Improve Outcomes and Lower Costs

09:52 Improving Patient Care Through Pharmacist Interaction

10:48 Automated Fulfillment Centers and Patient Care at Walgreens

28:45 Healthcare Innovations 

31:54 Exploring Solutions to Healthcare Challenges

32:15 The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Healthcare 

36:49 Exploring the Impact of the Changing Labor Industry on Healthcare 


Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which has a mission of connecting independent management consultants with one another, creating opportunities for members to meet, build relationships, and share lessons learned. Learn more at