For CIOs, especially those who are new to an organization, there’s a lot of focus on the to-do list, and understandably so. But what’s just as important, according to Craig Richardville, is the ‘not to-do’ list. What often happens, he has found, is that individuals can become stuck “spinning their wheels on certain functions or features that aren’t a priority” — and in some cases, won’t ever be.
This is where leaders need to set realistic expectations, communicate them effectively, and have a defined ‘no-bucket,’ he said. Recently, healthsystemCIO spoke with Richardville about his first six months at SCL Health, which has included a major restructuring to ensure that the right people are on the bus, and that IT priorities are aligned with the organization’s newly released strategic plan.
He also discusses his approach to change management, what he learned during a year-long CIO sabbatical about the enormous potential of innovative startups, and why it’s time to retire the ATM comparisons, once and for all.
- About SCL Health
- 3 primary markets, 3 different landscapes
- Strategy as new CIO
- First 30 days: discovery through one-on-ones
- Creating VP roles focused on technology, applications & digital
- Establishing ITDS – “It was important we kept ‘services’ in the name”
- Technology partnership w/ Google
- Consolidated areas through ServiceNow hub
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It’s quite diverse in terms of all that we do and how we do it, which gives us openings to all different types of abilities to extend our care and expand access to our care.
We really started to get a better perspective as to what was happening within the organization, what was working well from their perspective, and what wasn’t working well.
To me, it was important that services was kept in our name, because that’s what we do. We serve other parts of the organization, and our patients.
A lot of the future work is going to be driven upon digital services and our transition into a digital industry that delivers healthcare services, and so I want to make sure there was a group focused on that.
Each initiative within it has its own programming so that it has a scope, a budget, a schedule, and a benefit section. All of this is part of a 5-year program that aligns with our strategy.
Gamble: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. We have a lot to talk about. Now, you’ve been with SCL Health for about six months, correct?
Richardville: Yes. I started in February, so it’s been six months, and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a great opportunity to share some experiences from my past and leverage those learnings, while also learning a new organization and new market. It’s a great leadership team. Our mission and vision of being a faith-based organization really brings you back to your roots. It’s a nice place to be.
Gamble: I know it’s a pretty large system, but can you give a birds-eye view of the organization?
Richardville: Sure. It’s about a $3 billion system in terms of revenue. We’re a Catholic, faith-based organization with three primary markets. One is called the Front Range, which is primarily the greater Denver area. Another is the Western Slope, which covers the other side of the Rocky Mountains and taps into eastern Utah, and then there’s the state of Montana. Those are our primary markets. We divested services out of California and Kansas in order to focus on these three markets. We employ somewhere around 500-plus providers, a couple of hundred ambulatory care site, and eight acute care hospitals, and we have somewhere around 80,000 admissions. We also extend our services via several joint ventures as well as the Community Connect Program.
Gamble: So a pretty large geographic area. I would think there’s a good variety in terms of the patient population and the types of areas covered.
Richardville: Yes. Being in multiple states, there are certainly regulations you have to think about, and advocacy you have to keep track of both in Colorado and Montana. Because of the geographics of how we’re set up, with the Western Slope being the primary referral center, a lot of the relationships we have with other community and critical access hospitals throughout the region have a different flavor to them. Because Montana is extremely rural, there are a lot of opportunities for connectivity and telehealth, whereas in the Front Range, there’s pretty intense competition — you have a handful of providers all servicing very similar communities. And so, we have a heavy urban area, rural areas, and then a large referral center in the third market. So it’s quite diverse in terms of all that we do and how we do it, which gives us openings to all different types of abilities to extend our care and expand access to our care.
Gamble: In the Western Slope, where you have a lot of referrals and work with a lot of different hospitals, does that get complex in terms of managing those different agreements or partnerships?
Richardville: It does. All three markets have their own different flavors. Because it is so diverse, it keeps it very interesting and challenging as you continue to maneuver and become effective at providing services to those markets. Definitely on the Western Slope side, there’s a lot of connectivity that needs to take place; a lot of patients and data that flow back and forth in between the referral center that’s ours and all the other communities being served. It’s a very interesting model, but one that’s also very fulfilling. If you do it well, you can really have a large impact on those communities.
Gamble: Right. We’re seeing a lot of changes in how healthcare is structured, and it seems like a necessary step to form these different types of partnerships and be able to balance that.
Richardville: And as your mission lines up, it makes it a little bit easier to be able to fulfill the mission of each organization, especially when you get into the critical access or community hospital space, where it’s typically non-profit and very patient-centric. It’s the same as our philosophy. Even though we’re a different size, it allows us to be able to connect real time with their wishes as well as the demands on us. It works out really well; I’ve enjoyed it.
Gamble: Can you talk about how you approached stepping in to the CIO role there? Obviously it wasn’t your first CIO position, but how did you approach being at a new organization and getting to know the team?
Richardville: I basically broke it down into several different phases. The first phase, which was about 30 days, was more of a discovery stage or a listening tour. I came in and learned a lot about the IT organization, and I learned with our customers. We went through over 40 one-on-ones with different levels of the organization, from the CEO down through the vice president level and some of the director levels. By doing this, we really started to get a better perspective as to what was happening within the organization, what was working well from their perspective, and what wasn’t working well. I also then I did my own analysis of the IT organization.
The second phase, which was the next 30 days, was more of an assessment. I gathered different data points that I had from that first month. When I put all those data together, I started to look at how I wanted to organize the system or best support the system. Then I looked at whether we had the right seats on the bus, and the right people in those seats.
At the time I was going through that process, I had four vice presidents. We separated three of them, which then created an opportunity to work closer with the director level. And so I set up team huddles with each of the different directors as I reorganized the IT division and then started a recruitment process of filling the right roles. One of the changes was to create a pure chief technology officer and recruit somebody into that spot. I also created a vice president of applications and recruited somebody into that spot, and then I repurposed the third vice president position and made it in charge of digital services. It’s an area I feel is certainly going to be our future, as well as being someone who could pull different parts of the organization together. I’m in the process of recruiting that role.
In addition, I took the data piece which fell previously under the CTO, and made that a direct report. Data is the only thing we produce in healthcare within the provider sector. We take actions based on data, so I want to make sure that was front and center for the organization. I also repurposed another position to be more of a business director, and then started to put some framework around running this is as a business. Then I kept the chief information security officer. So if you look at it going from left to right, I have a repurposed business director and a chief information security officer (who was one of the vice presidents we kept). I prioritized data as a more important element of our services and made that a direct report, filled out the chief technology officer spot, filled out the vice president of applications spot, and repurposed a vice president position to be focused on digital services.
That’s kind of how we’re structured. And when you look at the brand, another exercise was in deciding were we going to call the service division. To me, it was important that services was kept in our name, because that’s what we do. We serve other parts of the organization, and our patients. And so, we went through a new branding and we released a new brand called ITDS (Information Technology and Digital Services). Some might call like a bedrock, but it’s the foundation of information technology as the core of the work. A lot of the future work is going to be driven upon digital services and our transition into a digital industry that delivers healthcare services, and so I want to make sure there was a group focused on that. Part of the creation of that is partnering with the remaining C-suite and building a strong partnership with our senior vice president of marketing so we can co-sponsor the initiative of moving that forward.
Then, I created 10 programs of work, all of which have dozens of projects that feed up underneath. There’s one around all of our applications, there’s one around data, and one that’s digital. Then we have some platforms around enterprise resource planning, which includes a whole C-suite of projects and programs. We have one around Epic, which is a major platform for us both in revenue cycle and clinical, and there’s a whole suite of projects that revolve around that program.
Our technology partner is Google. We changed from Microsoft Office to Google G Suite. We also are doing Google Voice, and using Google’s Cloud Platform. All of our relationships with Google tie into a separate initiative. We have one around IT risk, which is chaired by our CISO and that internal audit, external audit, corporate compliance, HIPAA, legal, and all types of functions that typically have been run as separate initiatives. We pulled all that in under one. We also have one around customer relationship management (CRM). Some people might default that to Salesforce, but that’s just the name of the company; for us, CRM is a whole different initiative.
We have one around ServiceNow, which is going to be another platform for us. We’re going live with our first area in August; our systems service areas — HR, finance, materials, IT, biomedical engineering — will all be fed back to the organization through ServiceNow. We call that the hub.
The last of the 10 is technology. The applications at the top are all the different things that fit around those platforms, and the technology piece sits on the bottom. So those are the 10. And all of those have a separate program around it. Each initiative within it has its own programming so that it has a scope, a budget, a schedule, and a benefit section. All of this is part of a 5-year program that aligns with our strategy, called Mission for 2025. All of these initiatives are tied into helping us achieve our strategic plan, which was announced in January.