Kathy McElligott is Executive Vice President, Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer of McKesson Corporation. As CIO, McElligott is responsible for all technology initiatives within the corporation. As CTO, McElligott guides the overall technology direction for the company’s healthcare technology products, and provides support and guidance for application development processes companywide.
Prior to McKesson, McElligott served as the CIO of Emerson, a St. Louis-based global manufacturing and technology company, where she managed the company’s information technology strategy and information security for its global operations, including hardware, software, and services, as well as its telecommunications and data center infrastructure. In her 15 years at Emerson, McElligott held a variety of executive positions including vice president of Information Technology for Emerson Industrial Automation and vice president of Information Technology for Emerson Power Transmission. Previously, McElligott spent 22 years with General Electric, holding multiple information systems leadership roles, ultimately becoming CIO of supply chain for GE Aircraft Engines.
McElligott was recently appointed to the board of directors at ArcBest, a publicly traded $2.6B freight transportation and logistics company and also serves as board member for Connections to Success, an organization that encourages disadvantaged men and women to achieve economic self-reliance. While in St. Louis, McElligott was a member of the board of trustees for Fontbonne University, the industry advisory council of Washington University and member on the St. Louis CIO Board. McElligott is also a member of the CIO Strategy Exchange, a small and selective multi-sponsor program for chief information officers from the most forward-looking companies.
McElligott holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from Kent State University and a master’s degree in business management from Xavier University.
Technology was not on my radar when I started college. In fact, I selected my university based on their strength in photojournalism, in hope of becoming a National Geographic journalist. As luck would have it, I took a computer science class and ended up enjoying it so much, I changed my major. I found problem solving with technology to be engaging and challenging, while still feeding my need for creativity. That combination pulled me from my original focus and eventually landed me where I am today.
Had I not taken a computer science course, I may have never known my true passion. My accidental discovery causes me to promote the importance of technology and the impact it can make. While technology is very important, I also feel there are a few other helpful hints to share with those I mentor:
1. Having technical skills is not enough. You need to know how to develop a business case, be able to clearly communicate to a non-technical audience the value of your proposal and then execute to complete your project.
2. Step out of your comfort zone. I was lucky to have mentors that encouraged me to apply for positions that I may not have considered otherwise. I encourage others to seize opportunities that build on their strengths and also stretch themselves in areas they have not yet tackled.
3. Have a vision of where you want to go. If you have a defined goal, including where you want to be in your career in 5 or 10 years, your chances of reaching that goal are far higher than someone who has not developed a vision. That said, if you focus too much on the next promotion, you may miss out on other opportunities to grow, including some in your current position.
The strategic value of technology at McKesson is what keeps our business moving forward and ensures we remain relevant to our customers and ultimately, patients. Our success relies on the collective talents of technical teams – engineers, developers, analysts, architects and data scientists to innovate and achieve our goals. There are many pressure points on healthcare today; doctors need to solve for better outcomes, hospitals discharging patients without regression, payers becoming more efficient and productive, all forcing technology to be front and center.
Since all of these individuals and organizations are our customers, technology plays an important role in our strategy. Internally, we use technology and automation as part of our operational excellence focus to ensure that medicine and medical devices arrive reliably and precisely where and when they are required. We also provide a broad set of technology solutions designed to help lower the cost of healthcare, allow doctors to spend more time with their patients and collaborate with other medical professionals to provide exceptional patient care.
Interoperability is a good example of collaborative partnerships and a major area of focus for our company, customers and patients. Without the information structures in place and the services to support it, we may miss insights and lose efficiencies in the healthcare practices. Providing a platform to make a patient’s information visible across touch-points (hospitals, doctors, clinics, patients, etc.) will ensure all of a patient’s health providers are working with a consistent and complete view of the individual. That is one way that McKesson is promoting better health.
Every aspect of our lives has technology woven into it, and healthcare is no exception. In fact, the success of the healthcare industry is dependent on it. Healthcare professionals are able to research, detect, diagnose and more importantly, cure from the advances we’ve seen in technology. Likewise, patients are now able to review their medical records online, email doctors with non-urgent questions, video conference with a specialist across the world, and find out what genetic disorders they may carry with one blood test. Technology is changing at a rapid pace and with it, we need leaders in STEM who will leverage these innovations and promote education in the fields that will shape healthcare and our world.
By 2020, it’s predicted that the United States needs an additional 5.6 million healthcare workers. 82 percent of those jobs will require postsecondary training and education, many of which fall into STEM curriculum. The healthcare industry needs medically trained professionals who understand and utilize technology to speed up diagnosis and improve outcomes as well as technically skilled individuals who will build these innovative solutions and analytical models.
In order to fulfill the roles of tomorrow, we will need to increase the population of students pursuing STEM degrees. Talent in these fields is already in short supply which, creates fierce competition across many industries. Looking forward 5 to 10 years, the drought of this skilled talent will slow down our pace of innovation and impede our progress towards continuing improvements in the cost and quality of healthcare.
Changing the trajectory requires inspiring a new generation of leaders and it starts in our schools. Educators and business leaders should collaborate to spark curiosity and interest in STEM with students at a very early age and continue to nurture that from grade school through high school and into college.
Engaging with schools to act as a mentor, host workshops and promote co-op/intern opportunities for students are all great ways to help spotlight STEM careers and education for students.