In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Medvedeff.
A pharmacist by education, David Medvedeff has dedicated his career to making a positive impact on the health and lives of patients across the country. He has successfully founded and led multiple healthcare technology companies during his career, including Aspen RxHealth, the leader in clinical pharmacy services. David’s leadership has been recognized across the industry, with awards including Next Generation Pharmacist — Visionary Pioneer, Top Healthcare Technology CEO, and 50 Most Influential Leaders in Pharmacy.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town in South Florida with parents who immigrated from South America. I had the privilege of being raised in a loving home where both parents were home for dinner every night. My father never had a boss and always worked for himself — a lesson that has stuck with me over the years. Dinner conversation often revolved around the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship and when we weren’t talking about subjects such as that, I was off playing baseball and tennis. I’m grateful for the childhood that enabled me to harness my entrepreneurial and competitive spirit, giving me the confidence to build organizations of my own.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’ve had the pleasure of finding myself in many interesting situations throughout the course of my career, one of the most notable was the call I received on Labor Day weekend just after Hurricane Katrina hit. Imagine my surprise when the office of the White House called to ask my team and I to teach several federal agencies about the work we had done to ensure that displaced people were still able to receive necessary medications. Within days, I was on a committee with the FDA, FEMA, and other response agencies. In the years following, I participated in a nationwide speaking tour talking about the work we did to create an on-demand electronic platform to connect pharmacies and patients, ensuring the right medications were available when needed, even after the most significant natural disasters.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m grateful to have had many tremendous people of influence along my journey. There are three individuals that have had a lasting impact on me and my leadership style:
David Bainbridge: David is a private equity investor who acquired a business and approached me to run it. At the time, he and I were both young, and he was making a sizable bet on me being the right person for the top job. It was my first experience operating with full autonomy, accountable only to a board of directors, and it proved to be a very valuable experience. Over time, we had many tough conversations, but we always maintained a mutual sense of trust and respect. After that opportunity, David invited me to serve on another board of directors, and over the years we’ve remained close. I will forever appreciate the ways in which he challenged and shaped me.
George Kitchens: George was my first boss after I graduated from pharmacy school. He had a sense of humor that I admired and perhaps more importantly, he believed in me to such an extent that he created a position for me at the Eckerd Corporation headquarters as a young, new graduate. While working for him, he taught me the value of professional networking and engaging with vendors and partners — skills that continue to serve me to this day.
Russ Thomas: Russ was another leader who saw my potential to operate an organization and provided continuous support to me. He gave me opportunities in my early 30’s that I was probably too inexperienced for, but he was willing to take a risk, and I’ll be eternally grateful for his trust and vision.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.” This saying gets lots of mileage — both in my personal and professional lives. Often, we see people get greedy and I think the opposite should be our focus. When more people win, we all win. Focusing on the greater good breeds more success than focusing on winners vs. Losers.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- People-centered optimism. Forever a student, I thoroughly enjoy harnessing my ability to bring people to their highest potential. Time and time again, I’ve seen individuals around me — both in my personal and professional lives — achieve much more than they deemed possible. It’s the reason why I love motivating and coaching — from my thirteen-season stint as a youth baseball coach to the CEO encouraging my talented team. The sum of the parts is always greater than the individual.
- Empathy, always. Too often we see business leaders lack empathy or hold empathy only for the select few. This skill is critical to managing across generations and demographics in order to scale a powerful team. At Aspen RxHealth, our diverse team come from all walks of life and that is something we actively lean into. Our empathetic approach to management is likely one of the reasons we won Modern Healthcare’s Best Places to Work in Healthcare two years in a row, an achievement that I am extremely proud of.
- Strategic-minded. This character trait has allowed me to work a few steps ahead of the crowd. When making decisions, I tend to evaluate how pieces of my decision will fit together before moving in any direction. My method is to see a problem, understand how to address it, and find the right people to help me solve for it along the way. A great example is when I ran an organization, and we were being acquired by one of our competitors. To every executive’s nightmare, the buyer pulled out in the eleventh hour. Rather than scrambling to find a new buyer straight away, I made the decision to collect ourselves, focus on strengthening our business and go back out in six months. Sure enough, six months later, we re-entered the market and ultimately received 40% more than the failed deal would’ve realized. Thinking strategically and long-term created a better outcome for everyone.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the technology or medical devices that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?
I have the distinct pleasure and challenge of trying to solve for multiple health-related problems. Firstly, adverse drug events, or ADEs, cause about 1.3 million emergency room visits each year, $30 billion in avoidable costs for our healthcare system, and are the fourth leading cause of death in our nation. To top that off, for too long, pharmacists’ expertise and knowledge have been underutilized, too often relegated to managing inventory or staffing issues in a pharmacy. In an age when clinical burnout is at an all-time high, we cannot afford for this frightening trend to continue.
How do you think your technology can address this?
We created Aspen RxHealth as a solution to both problems. By providing a gig-economy platform for pharmacists, they now have a new career path allowing them to practice at the top of their license. At the same time, these pharmacists now have the infrastructure to reach patients all around the US and provide consultations that could not only improve patient health, but save lives. And by allowing our pharmacists to work from wherever they have a secure internet connection in the US, we are seeing unprecedented levels of career satisfaction that traditional models simply cannot provide.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
This is an issue that’s very close to home for me, both because I am a pharmacist by education and because I have borne witness to the detrimental effects of medication mismanagement.
Years ago, my grandmother lived in a skilled nursing facility and after a few months, she began to fall — repeatedly. Multiple broken bones and emotional trauma later, I reviewed her medication list. Quickly I uncovered that she had mistakenly been prescribed medication to manage her prostate — which clearly was not only inappropriate for her, but also came with the side effect of lowering her blood pressure upon standing, resulting in her continual falling. I contacted her prescriber to have the issue rectified, and she never fell again. All these years later I still ask myself — why did it have to come to this?
How do you think this might change the world?
A seemingly simple consultation or medication review by a clinical pharmacist can make the biggest difference in a patient’s health and quality of life. While doctors are experts in their respective fields, pharmacists are the foremost medication experts in all healthcare. When a pharmacist is empowered to deliver true clinical care without the burden of dispensing or inventory management, it’s amazing to think of the positive health impacts we can make at scale. Given the opportunity and reach, pharmacists could play a sizable role in reducing the epidemic of ADEs that our nation faces each year, keeping patients healthier and reducing the overall cost of healthcare.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
It’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where greater pharmacist career satisfaction and better patient health could be negative in any way. I truly believe that pharmacist-led clinical care is a positive force for good in our healthcare system and it’s the main reason that my team and I started Aspen RxHealth.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”?
It hasn’t been an easy path, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I have learned many valuable lessons as it relates to building teams and scaling organizations to make a positive impact:
- People-first. It boils down to having the right team in place and never underestimating the value of human capital. Our team is perhaps what I’m most proud of. Every day, they are forging forward to create innovative new solutions and programs to improve healthcare.
- In a startup environment, everything will take longer, and cost more than you thought (think double!). By nature, everything is brand new, so even though you may do your best to estimate costs and timelines, you’ll often learn along the way and be required to stay nimble. It goes back to point number one, if you have the right team in place, they will make it happen.
- Build fast and fail fast. You likely won’t always succeed on the first try. But know that even if you’re not met with immediate success, it’s still a win if you learn from it. Start with proof of concept and scale from there.
- Be relentless until you have validated product-market fit. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In the same way, if you build a solution first, everything looks like a problem. If you are a solution searching for problems, you’ll quickly run out of time and money. Be sure there truly is a problem and then build a solution to fix it.
- Never underestimate the value of a strong board or mentors. Even when you’re the leader of an organization, you can’t always be right or have all the answers. That’s why it’s so critically important to have the right board members in place to help guide your organization and mentors from points along your career to act as your own personal board of advisors to help guide you.
Can you share a few best practices that you recommend to safeguard your technology or medical devices from hackers?
It goes back to human capital. I place full trust in our Information Security Team to keep us best in class as it relates to our IT security practices. Our team ensures that we are always following the latest contemporary practices led by industry experts.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Early on, I decided that I wanted to have the largest positive impact, on the largest number of people. To that end, I built a team of like-minded talent who work relentlessly to improve the lives of thousands of pharmacists and thousands of patients daily. Collectively we are making a lasting impact. And frankly, there is nothing more satisfying than doing well for yourself and your family by doing good for others.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Malcolm Gladwell, without question. I have the most sincere appreciation for writers and the powerful impact that good storytelling can have. Gladwell does a masterful job of breaking down highly technical concepts and creates a path for his audience to reach a conclusion. I’d love to sit down with him for dinner and understand his process for how he artfully delivers his message through storytelling.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
If you want to stay up to date with everything going on at Aspen RxHealth, follow us on LinkedIn! We’re always posting new updates, featuring employees and pharmacists, and sharing valuable resources. To learn more about what we do and who we serve, check out our website at aspenrxhealth.com. And of course, you can follow me on LinkedIn as well!
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.
Thank you for this opportunity.