Innovation Leader Discusses Healthcare Competition and the changing role of the CIO

Healthy competition in healthcare & the changing role of the CIO

As part of an interview series with healthcare leaders across the country, the Olive team interviewed Craig Richardville about the biggest challenges facing healthcare today and the potential for innovation to transform the industry. Previous to his current role as SVP and CIO at SCL Health, he held leadership positions at Atrium Health and ProMedica Health System and received both his Bachelors and Master’s degrees from the University of Toledo.

Industry insights from a leader in innovation

Q: You’ve helped set the tone for innovation across the industry, guiding digital transformation at health systems. What do you see as the next disruptor in healthcare?

Industries like retail, consumer and technology have all experienced major disruption. The commonality I find among those spaces is that the pace of disruption is accelerated by healthy competition. Healthcare will follow that same trend. The industry already has a different level of competition than we’ve previously experienced. And that healthy, more aggressive level of competition has motivated us to think outside the box to improve and accelerate our approach to innovation.

We have a long way to go as an industry – whether you talk about the cost of healthcare, access to care, or patient outcomes. General dissatisfaction with the status quo has motivated us to find new, innovative solutions from both inside and outside of our industry – so, we’re ready to disrupt ourselves.

Q: Executive leaders often speak of competing priorities – the need to be strategic and visionary, while also fulfilling the need to execute with decisiveness. How do you determine the right mix of priorities?

When health systems have the right plan in place and it’s aligned to the goals of the organization, the priorities will be clear. For SCL Health, we have one strategic plan called Mission Forward 2025, and everyone in the organization is working toward a common goal, creating roadmaps and other activities that support our strategy.

Our plan has four imperatives and has been crafted in such a way that the initiatives and programming support the right mix and movements of our corporate scorecard and its measurements. So, as long as we continue to align our work initiatives with the four critical imperatives, we’ll be providing that right mix. After finishing our first year of Mission Forward 2025, we continue to tweak our strategic plan based on our changing environment and ability to succeed, so the plan is well-crafted and evolving with our organization.

Q: When you’re selecting an innovative product or service for your organization, what do you do to ensure the investment is successful?

As CIO, I’m looking for the right investments to accelerate impact and drive enterprise-wide transformation. So, it’s important to understand the difference between imitation and true innovation, which our industry desperately needs.

With imitation, organizations can certainly increase their probability of success by tapping into best practices benchmarked by those before them, essentially tailoring a solution or personalizing it for their environment. But with true innovation, SCL Health has the opportunity to achieve the level of impact required to drive our mission forward. And driving that innovation requires us to be much more disciplined in our approach, as well – creating clear timelines and very well defined metrics for success, for example.

As health systems embark on the journey of choosing the right technologies to drive their business forward, remember this: if at first you don’t succeed, embrace the opportunity to fail fast, learn from it, and move onto the next approach. If you are successful, work on accelerating that impact.

Q: If you could eliminate one healthcare industry challenge overnight, which one would it be?

It would be impossible to choose just one, so I’ll highlight a few.

One would be the term healthcare. The word has traditionally been focused on the word “care,” but a lot of the newer branding across the country shows health systems are simply referring to themselves as “Health.” Care is what drives our mission, and the spirit of the dedicated people who choose this path, so it’s critical we keep that at the forefront of everything we do.

Another one is how we use the term virtual, for instance, “virtual health” or “virtual care.” This adds the unnecessary negative connotation that it’s not real care, but in reality, this accessibility and convenience is expected in all other verticals. Consider mobile banking or online shopping, for example. When we check our balance on-the-go or shop at Amazon, we don’t say, “I’m going to virtual shop,” or “virtual bank.” This innovation is how we’ll provide more convenient access at a lower price point, with the ability to provide care where the customer is – at home, while traveling, wherever the connected device is. This is the future of how we’ll deliver better care.

And lastly, I would eliminate some of the state licensing limitations, which ultimately limits competition and access to care, while creating frustrations for both physicians and patients alike. When I was in the Charlotte market, for example, somebody living just 10 minutes away in South Carolina couldn’t access services in Charlotte, and vice versa. Allowing licenses to act similarly to a driver’s license, where one is licensed at the state level, but can provide care across the country, will help us more efficiently and effectively deliver access to services.

Q: How do you see the role of the CIO changing in healthcare? How do you think it will continue to evolve over the next five years?

The CIO is certainly a strategic role with increasing levels of complexity, because there isn’t an operational area of the health system that doesn’t have both people and technology in place. CIOs now have visibility across every facet of an organization, whether it’s a corporate area, a patient-facing area, or the patient experience itself. What’s changing is what the CIO is capable of achieving with that broader view.

CIOs increasingly find themselves in a position to break down barriers between verticals – and industries – so that the sophistication and level of complexity of the technology landscape can be better understood and used to our advantage. As the role of the CIO shifts within healthcare, the industry has recently started recruiting talent from other verticals outside the industry, and that change will allow us to continue to innovate and gain a broader perspective on ways to improve the industry for the better.

Q: We heard in your interview with Scott Becker that you are a mentor to many – what is a piece of advice you would give someone who is aspiring to have a career in healthcare like yours?

My advice to people aspiring to have a leadership position in healthcare is to be a student for life. Continue to be curious – never stop looking outside of the industry and always bring that learning to your role.

I always coach individuals on finding a mentor and a sponsor in your organization. It’s becoming increasingly popular to find sponsorship, where mentees are given the opportunity to gain hands on experience and career guidance from their sponsor. This helps aspiring healthcare employees gain the confidence and experience to solve the industry’s biggest challenges when the time comes for them to take the reins.

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