Dave Bour – Medly Pharmacy
In the days of stay-at-home orders, it’s hard to imagine a business more needed than a pharmacy offering home delivery. But as Dave Bour of Medly Pharmacy notes, doing this well takes much more than putting bottles of pills into bags and sending them out to customers, especially during a pandemic.
“If you look at my resume, you see I worked at a lot of startups and there were times when I might be the first IT employee,” Bour says. “However, this is an institutional program in the age of startups; it just doesn’t fit that way.”
Launched in Brooklyn in 2017 by co-founder and CEO Marg Patel, Medly offers same-day service and free prescription delivery to customers in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
Calling it the “Pharmacy in a Box,” the company is preparing to launch in many other major cities across the U.S. and has a customer support center in Utah, according to Bour. By acquisition or opening new locations, Medly’s goal is to expand to one or two new sites each month, he adds.
Delivering a new model
In some ways, Bour specializes in the art of obfuscation—Medly’s systems must ensure that customers get their prescriptions, while guaranteeing their personal information is protected and the company complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“Picture a mom and pop pharmacy with software to track inventory and a client database” that includes who’s picking up a prescription, Bour says. “That can be complicated enough, even just by printing labels because of the information on them. What we face is the difficulties of creating obfuscation while being able to scale the business.”
In the Medly model, patients first ask their doctors to switch prescriptions to the pharmacy. Then they can communicate, schedule deliveries and pay seamlessly by phone with a mobile app. Medly validates and files insurance claims, notifies physicians and patients on a prescription’s status and can provide consultations to patients.
Layers of protection
Bour was the first person to lead Medly’s IT, but as the company surpasses 500 employees, his team has grown to seven with more expected. The team is split into three areas—support, services and infrastructure.
“You have to be a team player,” Bour says. “You may be plugging in the cables and providing support while also keeping an eye on security. I like to hear candidates talk about things like physical access to our sites as much as logging and access to information.”
Medly uses Amazon Web Services for HIPAA-compliant cloud services, but that centralized storage needs encryption so that, for instance, a New York customer’s personally identifiable information can’t be accessed by someone who’s unauthorized.
Bour relies on several products to keep communications secure, too. Zendesk protects customer emails while RingCentral protects phone calls. There are internal coordinators working between the support teams and delivery staff, and they are also receiving only essential information needed to complete deliveries. Customers can track their orders and there’s logistics software to track the drivers, Bour says.
The software and system interact, he adds, and Bour has built dataflow diagrams to ensure private information is kept that way.
“The question is about how information is stored and passed between parties, but at the highest level we just want to respect people’s privacy,” he says.
The system was put to an even greater test when COVID-19 arrived. Medly is considered an essential service and Bour notes only some people can work remotely, as drivers are still needed to deliver prescriptions and certain front-line pharmacy employees are needed to fill prescription orders.
The drivers and other staff are well-stocked with sanitizers, face masks and gloves, he says, and Medly sites are disinfected four times a day at four-hour intervals.
Delivery drivers also have badges identifying them as essential employees and others who are working on-site have been supplied with prepaid ride cards from Uber so they won’t have to use public transportation, Bour adds.
For those who can work remotely, he needed to ensure there was a strong virtual private network allowing personal devices to link with office systems.
Piecing it together
While the complexity of protecting Medly’s operations is great, Bour likes going the distance to get things done.
He grew up outside Chicago and earned his bachelor’s in industrial computer science from Illinois State University in 2008. Then he came east for work, first in Boston as a senior desktop engineer with the William J. Clinton Foundation and ultimately as an IT engineer with the Boston Public Library System.
Hired as the manager of IT operations at Mashable in 2013, Bour left Boston for New York on his bicycle. Because he got there with plenty of time before his new job started, he kept riding for fun—all the way down to Washington, D.C.
After about 18 months at Mashable, Bour shifted to ClassPass as an IT manager; he also managed tech operations at Clarifai and Cityblock Health before joining Medly in 2019.
“The thing about places like Mashable and ClassPass is we were using tools designed without a lot of regulation in mind. At Medly, no matter how you slice it, it’s a challenge we’re excited to be working on,” he says. “It’s like you walk into a room where someone has dumped a puzzle on the ground. In order to best serve our customers, we have to find the matching puzzle pieces and assemble them at just the right time.”
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