4 questions with Regional Health CIO Richard Latuchie

Richard Latuchie, CIO of Rapid City, S.D.-based Regional Health, started his career in consulting — but after almost 30 years, his interest in technology led him to health IT.

While at Philadelphia-based The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a master of business administration in healthcare administration in 1975, Mr. Latuchie met two classmates interested in consulting. That year, the trio sublet an apartment in Philadelphia and launched a strategic planning business for healthcare organizations.

"As we built the business, I became the technology person and taught myself an awful lot during that time," he explains. "After doing that for 20 years, I decided to see how the other half lived, and took a job in strategic planning in marketing."

Following a few jobs in this sector — including vice president of marketing and planning at AtlantiCare in Atlantic City, N.J. — Mr. Latuchie moved to Rapid City in 2000, set to work at Regional Health in a business development capacity. However, his interest in technology led him to the health system's CIO role, overseeing IT for five hospitals and 24 clinics in South Dakota and Wyoming.

Mr. Latuchie spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about Regional Health's upcoming Epic go-live and his long-term goals for the Midwestern health system.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: How did you transition your career focus to health IT?

Richard Latuchie: I used to wonder whether I was unique in not having a technical background, per se, but as I joined organizations like CHIME [College of Healthcare Information Management Executives], I've found it wasn't uncommon at all.

I originally came to Regional Health in a business development capacity, but I sat down with the CEO and said, "Just file this away for future reference, but I have a passion and interest in technology, if the opportunity ever arises." I didn't expect anything to come of it, but a couple years later, I was asked to add IT to the portfolio of other departments I was managing. When we started to see the need to develop an EHR, it became evident we had to have a full-time leader in this area. I shed my other departments and turned my focus to IT at that time.

Q: What IT task has required the majority of your time over the past month?

RL: My leadership team and I have been spending a lot of time together as we're building toward an Epic go-live in October. That's a big job, to say the least, and we're very excited about making this big investment to unify our EHR.

In addition to just gearing up for an Epic implementation that's less than 200 days away, we brought on 100 new people to our staff, which numbers about 240 right now, for the Epic job. Regardless of whether you're involved in building Epic applications or whether you're supporting legacy systems, all of their jobs are going to change. We went into this telling people no one was going to lose their job after we go live, and we're committed to that. It's natural for people to wonder, "What am I going to be doing?", so the team has been spending a lot of our time putting together a new organizational structure for the IT division.

Q: Looking toward the next year, what are some of your goals for Regional Health?

RL: We have the Epic system implementation, which we're putting in October 22. We're moving from a variety of existing EHRs, and because we used some applications for those that Epic doesn't do, we had to replace a number of other systems. Long story short, we're now looking at enterprise resource planning, and we decided to put in Workday. So we've also got a Workday go-live in July.

We've got those two big projects, and a whole variety of projects related to the Epic implementation. We're trying to align a roadmap for Epic development beyond the go-live that maps to our strategic priorities. There are a variety of tools Epic provides us with to help, but part of it is also ensuring we have robust enough systems to do things we need to do and measure things we need to measure.

Q: As a CIO, what are some health IT trends you want to learn more about?

RL: We're continually looking at the cloud, to see whether there are more effective and cost-efficient ways to do things. Things are evolving so quickly; you have to stay up to date on what's going on there. We're also looking at how the move toward value-based reimbursement is going to require us to align and more effectively manage the information and metrics we collect.

Another area I'm becoming increasingly curious about is partnering with unconventional partners. We're in Rapid City, S.D., so we don't have the typical environment I'm used to from Philadelphia. You can't go to the roof of your facility and see your three closest competitors.

Here, to find a healthcare system, you might have to travel 300 miles in a given direction — but what we've learned is there's still a lot of competition coming from segments like digital providers, Walgreens or Walmart. I think partnering with non-healthcare system partners could be a fruitful relationship for us in the future. That's something where I'm not sure how to go about it, but I can't help but feel like it's going to be important for us, here, in the next three to five years.

More articles on health IT:
4 questions with Henry Ford Health System CIO Mary Alice Annecharico
Why Sanford Health is sharing patient data with its academic neighbors
Startup Insider: 5 questions with Integra Connect CEO Dr. Charles Saunders

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