Turning challenges into opportunities with 1 healthcare leader

A leader discusses labor shortages, inflation and electronic health. 

Craig Richardville is the senior vice president and chief information and digital officer at Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare.

Mr. Richardville will serve on the panel "Big Tech and Retail Healthcare: Friends, Competitors or Both?" at Becker's 7th Annual Health IT + Digital Health + RCM Annual Meeting: The Future of Business and Clinical Technologies. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place Oct. 4-7 in Chicago. 

To learn more and register, click here.

Question: What are you most excited about right now?

Craig Richardville: The most exciting part about the healthcare industry is the accelerated transition to value-based care, especially since Intermountain's goal is to be the model for the future of health and care. When we look at value-based care, historically, you would look at quality and cost and ensure that you deliver the highest quality at the most reasonable or lowest cost. But, in today's world, you also add in experience. I think we all, as consumers of other products and services and other industries, experience is becoming more and more critical to how we deliver healthcare. And so, now the new equation is quality, plus experience, divided by cost. And so, Intermountain Healthcare desires to be the model of the future of healthcare, and we believe the future is in value-based care.

Q: What challenges do you anticipate over the next two years?  

CR: Well, like many others, we try to turn some challenges into opportunities. First and foremost, I think the largest issue for us is our labor shortage, as the burnout and the ease of people transferring between jobs put a lot of pressure on the human component of delivering healthcare. [For] most of us, between 40 and 60 percent of our expense structure is in people. When there's a shortage of people, that strains those still there and increases the expenses by trying to find people to come in temporarily. Secondly, I think the whole aspect of what's impacting many of us, whether you're a patient or an employee, is inflation. 

A key component of delivering value-based care is understanding other things outside healthcare that impact people's behaviors and actions. Inflation, housing, transportation, and many other factors will influence people's behaviors and actions, increasing the focus on social determinants of health. Some stressors happening in our economies and communities will potentially accelerate that, which is why, in my opinion, value even becomes more and more critical to our industry.

Q: Where are the best opportunities for disruption in healthcare today?

CR: Well, for the last 20 years, we've focused on the EMR — electronic health and electronic medical records — and those truly are just a system of record, but not necessarily a system of engagement. We're all going to be slightly different — the big focus on data and turning that into artificial or advanced intelligence. So, partially related to the labor component,  the transition into self-service, personalization is important to treat each other as individuals, not as total. Still, we understand the differences between what would impact you versus what impacts me and make sure that our healthcare and the things outside of healthcare that we can help influence are very personalized to your situation.

Everyone in healthcare wants patients to help to be part of their health and care. We've seen that in other industries. A simple example is banking. Years ago, we all went to a bank to deposit checks to get cash or pay bills, and now all that's done with your phone.  We're taking many clerical and administrative tasks and automating those within some of those industries.

Right now, we certainly have the opportunity, and we will be automating a lot of those non-value-add work. We are giving our patients, members, and consumers the right tools to provide some of that work themselves and for our caregivers to do the same thing. Overall, this is what I would call developing a digital workforce. We're trying to remove some of the lower-value tasks in people's workflow, remove or certainly reduce them, and help them bring back the joy of delivering healthcare. 

The digital transformation piece on that engagement system is moving healthcare into one's daily routine. We do certain things every day: we get up, and we may check social media, and we may check what's happened to the stock market, we may check some texts or text somebody, or check our emails. We'd like to bring healthcare into that daily routine so that you check to see how well you took care of yourself yesterday. Through this, you are either managing a disease or staying healthy and preventing disease, ensuring that you have set that up so that you can get through the day, and continue to make healthcare part of your life.

Q: How is your role as a CIO evolving? How are IT teams changing?

CR: When the CIO was developed, it was focused on the financial side and expense controls. It was hardware-focused. We looked for efficiencies and things that would provide a higher level of confidence and decision-making. Then, it transitioned into operations, and people reported to or became part of the COO's staff or the chief administrative officer. 

So, now that we have the software creating all this data, the focus was decision-making, with the cumulative data that came into play. Now we're into 4.0, which is really digital, and we're seeing more chief digital and information officers coming into play. That focuses upon engagement not only within the healthcare system but also outside the healthcare system. We're trying to make sure that we can be part of your health from a clinical perspective, just like in banking; they want you to be healthy from a financial perspective.

Regarding how teams are changing, teams are becoming a lot more strategic. When you look at the team as the evolutions, it's tough to draw lines between them. The work that we do impacts the company and the industry. So, the collaboration is important because, as I like to tell people, if people can figure out that I'm the CIO, or the chief digital and information officer, I'm not doing my job. After all, I need to understand the business first, understand some of the clinical burdens out there, the opportunities we can create, and bring that back into the world of technology.

So, you're starting to see a transition with some of the large retailers and tech companies that we're becoming more of a technology company that delivers healthcare. I think there are opportunities to advance quickly by working with many high-tech companies and having them truly embrace the change, embracing the competitive spirit, and moving the industry forward. That's part of our new collaboration or competition, depending on how you view it.

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