March 24: Today on Townhall Craig Richardville, SVP & Chief Information & Digital Officer for SCL Health interviews This Week Health’s very own Bill Russell. The CIO role in healthcare is so complicated. Why is that? How is This Week Health helping to serve and influence the evolution of the CIO? Where does Bill see that role going? Who are his most important mentors? In speaking with such a diverse group of leaders, what does Bill’s crystal ball say about the future of technology adoption within healthcare over the next five years?
Today on This Week Health.
The CIO role in healthcare is so complex because when you think about it, who else can you go to and say, hey, let's talk about clinical workflows. And hey, let's talk about supply chain and they have to do that. Hey, let's talk about finance. Hey, let's talk about claims processing. Hey, let's talk about you name it. We have to at least understand it at a base level across the board to be able to lead the organization.
Welcome to This Week Health Community. This is TownHall a show hosted by leaders on the front lines with 📍 interviews of people making things happen in healthcare with technology. My name is Bill Russell, the creator of This Week Health, a set of channels designed to amplify great thinking to propel healthcare forward. We want to thank our show sponsors Olive, Rubrik, Trellix, Hillrom, Medigate and F5 in partnership with Sirius Healthcare for investing in our mission to develop the next generation of health leaders. Now onto our 📍 show.
Welcome everybody. This is the IT TownHall. This is actually my inaugural interview. And I am very privileged to bring to you a gentleman named Bill Russell. And Bill really deserves so much to our industry and needs no introduction. Bill is a, he's a mentor, a respected colleague. He's an influencer. And most importantly, I call him a friend. I actually noticed today, we hang out in a similar crowd. I looked up on LinkedIn and we had 1100 shared mutual connections and wow. I don't know 1100 people but we hang out with.
Yeah, what I did is I went through your LinkedIn connections and I sent them all requests. I said, I know Craig. And a bunch of them said yes. So it's really good. Craig, thanks for those kinds of words. And thanks for interviewing me and especially for being a part of the TownHall. It's just exciting to have members of the community interviewing their peer network. It's, it's really exciting.
Well, thanks Bill. Your career is very accomplished and it started out in technology. Then you became a consultant an executive, an entrepreneur. So many different seats that you've you sat in over the years, then also a CIO for a very large health system for a few years. I Got back into entrepreneurial spirit again with, with all the work you've been doing the last five or six years. The one thing I've heard you say more than once out of all the different hurdles that you had to jump through and all those different roles that you've played is you said the CIO was the hardest. And I liked the understand. What, why do you say that?
Well, specifically, I would say the CIO in healthcare is the hardest job I've ever done. That's, now being a bus boy was not all that easy to be honest with you for me. And I worked a UPS job over the summer and while I was in college emptying those big, long haul trucks from from midnight to six o'clock in the morning. That was probably the hardest job I've ever physically done, but the the CIO role in healthcare is so complex.
And it's not surprising to me to see CIOs moving to COO roles and some of the other executive roles, because when you think about it, who who else can you go to and say, hey, let's talk about clinical workflows. And the CIO has to be able to do that. And hey, let's talk about supply chain and they have to do that.
Hey, let's talk about finance. Hey, let's talk about claims processing. Hey, let's talk about you name it. We have to at least understand it at a base level across the board to be able to, to lead the organization. And so that aspect of it was challenging. And because I'm not a sitting CIO, I'll say this the, the politics of it were hard.
I was a 16 hospital system and there was always something that somebody wanted to do that someone else didn't want to do. And a lot of the role is helping to bridge that gap. Helping either these people don't understand why you we really can't do it or shouldn't do it or helping these people to understand why this is in the best interest of the health system.
So it's challenging because it requires left-brain and right brain right? It requires negotiation skills, leadership skills. It requires technical acumen. Requires so many things. And to be honest with you, when you come in every day, you sit down at your desk. I used to come in at about five o'clock. I'd get to my desk. Because I wanted to get my work done before everybody else started showing up because the rest of my day just never went the way I thought it was going to go. There was always something going on. So it's a yeah far and away, the hardest, hardest job I've ever had.
Oh, that's great perspective. Appreciate that. I think many of us would, would concur with. And Speaking of insight, the one thing that you're able to capture in your role over the last five, six years is just a lot of insight from a lot of different people that in many cases have different perspective, looking at it through different lenses. And then you have the ability to share that back out so that we can digest it and consume it and be able to process that as we move through. How do you think you're influencing the evolution of the CIO? And I guess more importantly, where do you see it going in the next several years?
That's a great question. I mean, one of the reasons I started doing this was, I felt like and people are going to take this the wrong way, but I felt like every day I was in the CIO role, I got dumber. And when I say that, people think, what do you mean? I said, well when I was a consultant, I got to go to this health system and then this health system and this, I mean, you get to go place to place to place.
And I get to hear the really cool things that Intermountain's doing. Then I'd go down to UCLA. Hear the really cool things they're doing. Then I go over to Northwestern Medicine and see what they're doing. And it was almost like every day was, was a new set of experiences and knowledge coming in.
And when I was a CIO, I had to focus in. A lot of days I had to focus on what the, the challenges we had to deal with. I didn't have the, the luxury of, of really gathering that knowledge. And so now I get to get that opportunity to to take that knowledge, bring it together, and then amplify it in the industry.
And I think it would be a misnomer to say I'm influencing it. What's influencing it is the people I'm interviewing. I'm giving you a platform. So when, when you get up there and say, yeah, we replaced all of our phones at the administrative side with Google voice, I go, what? You're kidding me.
And then when people I'm out and about and they go, yeah, you can't, you can't replace administrative phones with a cloud-based solution. I'm like, no, it's been done. I mean, watch this, watch this podcast with Craig. And actually it goes on and on. I was just talking to Stephanie Lahr and they're doing great stuff with computer vision and AI and people. I had somebody say to me the other day, oh, that's Buck Rogers. That's not happening. Talk to Stephanie, she's doing it. I mean, she's putting cameras in these places. It's processing the video through video, through NVIDIA chips and it's doing all this stuff and you go, well, you have to be an academic, medical, huge academic medical center to do that. It's Monument Health. Talk to Stephanie. It's not, it's not. And so I'm just amplifying and I mean, our, our mission is amplified, great thinking to propel healthcare forward. And a lot of times the best thinking's already out there and all I'm doing is asking the questions and, and bringing it to the surface.
And I think the more I do that, the more the smarter CIOs look because when they go into that, meeting this afternoon they're able to say I heard of a, of a health system, that's doing this and they, they seem like they're reading the journals and that kind of stuff, but really all they need to do is listen to the interviews I'm doing everyday.
Yeah, that's great. I mean, part of what you're doing is, many of us are still learners and we'll learn for the rest of her life and you're providing some really good content and connections. Allow us to be able to bring some of that good stuff into our healthcare system and influence the markets and our patients that we serve. So a very valuable and bringing that along. We've all had, and if somebody asked me this question, I don't know if I could answer it. But I'll give it a shot with you. So we've all had people mentors, somebody in our professional life that has taken us under their wings, maybe taught us a hard lesson or two. And the reason why I can't answer it is I have a handful or more if I was asked it, but really who has the most impact on development?
It has to be three people. I don't tell the story enough. It's just a funny story. Me and my buddy were shooting baskets when we were in college and I couldn't find a summer internship. And he had 2. This is how college students think. We're shooting baskets and he goes, I got two. Why don't you take one of them? I'm like, all right, I'll take one. That's great. He goes, yeah. I was supposed to be in their office on Monday. So I get in my suit, I drive over. M & M Morris. This is not a small company. This is M and M candies. This is global company. I show up and they say is your name Herman?
I said, oh no, it's Bill Russell. And they, because the communication is so bad within these large organizations, they said, oh, we must have had the name wrong. Well, okay. Why don't you just go ahead and fill out this stuff. I fill out the stuff, whatever. And I get the job and I'm in payroll and all that other stuff.
Three weeks later. I mean, it's in marketing. Market research. The head of market research comes through and I knew the guy from, from other things that we were doing and he walks in and I'm reporting it to him. And he looks at me. He goes, what are you doing here? And I tell him to story. I said, well Herm and I were shooting baskets. He didn't want the job. So I took the job. He just started laughing and he said, he just, he laughed. He walked away. He went to his desk and then he goes, Hey, let's go to lunch. So we went to lunch and he mentored me that whole summer. He mentored me on dress for success. And dress for the job you want. And just a whole bunch of great stuff. And he I remain friends to this day. I pick up the phone, I'm on one of his boards, he's doing some stuff. It's those people who really come alongside you when you're young. And we all hope that for our kids, right. That somebody is gonna just come alongside them and say all the things that we said to them, but they didn't listen.
And then they didn't pick it up. The second would be the guy, who in my wedding has just. He was my executive coach while I was at St. Joe's and doing the CIO role. And when you're in that role, first of all leadership roles are lonely. They can be lonely. I mean, it's not that you're not surrounded by people. You're surrounded by people all the time, but there's very few people that you can talk to and say certain things to. And so I always had a coach and he was a great coach. Helped me get through a lot of things. There was times I called him and said, I'm going to go into this meeting and I'm going to speak my mind.
And he's like, no, no, you're not going to do that. I was like, yeah. And that was good advice. And then last, the last CEO for St. Joes. And I was the last CIO for St. Joe's because we merged with Providence. She took me under her wing when I came in there and helped me to understand healthcare.
But the other thing, the thing she left me with that I will remember forever is she said Bill gratitude is the key to everything. It's the key to success. And. It is so true that people are more willing to be interviewed when you're grateful for their interview. When you say thank you. When you all that stuff.
And, and it, it sounds so trite and I can't believe it took 50 years of my life before someone said it and it actually sunk in, but it really is true. So those three people are probably the people I've mentored to be the most. But to be honest with you, it's people like as a CIO, I was shocked at how helpful we are to each other.
I thought we were all going to be competitors. And from you and Darren Dworkin. We were in the Southern California market together. The first interaction I had with him, we were on a panel and we went head to head. We just, we you know tore each other apart on the stage and we got done, I'm like, well, I'm never going to talk to him again.
He came up to me and said, that was the most fun I've ever had on a panel. We should go to lunch. And we've been friends ever since. And there's so many CIOs. John Halamka came by my side early on. Helped me with how healthcare interoperability and architecture works. John Glasser. I mean, there's so many great people who just are willing to help.
Yeah. It really is a family. And and I appreciate that. When two of your three examples where in the CIO health care role of the mentorship, I think that's also kind of amplifies why you say it's the hardest but when I think of Bill Russell and basketball, I definitely don't think of you. But maybe now I'll think of you with basketball, with your story.
So that was great. We're all looking for advice and we've all made mistakes throughout our carer and if there was one thing that you would do different or one thing that you would give somebody a heads up on and say, Hey when you run it, this type of situation, you don't want to do this, or you do want to do that. Because you have an example that you learned from, or maybe you took a left when you should have taken a right or vice versa. What advice would you give them?
I think there's two things I would say around that. And these are hard examples to give. But the first is when when you become a CIO. First of all a CIO you're spending 280. I was spending $280 million a year. I personally wasn't spending it. It had to go through governance. Don't anyone get all worked up because I just said I spent $280 million, but that's how they treat you. When you go to a conference, they treat you like that old ING commercial where you had a number over your head and you walk in and they go that health system. He's probably got $300 million he's going to spend next year. And they treat you that way and you could easily let that go to your head and it's, it's good to remain humble and not let that go to your head. And that's hard to do. That's hard to do for anybody. People who've been in that role for a long time.
I would say the longer you're in there, the more you might think that you're as funny as the laughs that you're getting and all those things. But the, the story I will tell on that is the day after I took my severance and left St. Joe's my phone stopped ringing and my email box was as clean as it's ever been.
And all those people that you think, Hey, these are my friends and, and those kinds of thing., they are your friends. There's a lot of people that are your colleagues, but your friends are the people you develop friendships with. It's the people that you say, Hey, you know what? I'm going to call them when things are bad, I'm going to, it's the people you develop a relationship with.
And I learned that for like the fourth time after I left being a CIO and the phone stopped ringing and I thought all these people were my friends. I'm like, I knew better. That was a hard lesson for me. And I think the other thing is, it's a small industry, it's a small world.
And one of the things that my wife and I always say is err, on the side of grace. There have been people who have wronged me every which way but Sunday in healthcare and, and said things behind my back and that kind of stuff. And people are like, well you have the microphone? What are you going to do to them?
I'm like, I'm going to invite them on. And I'm going to amplify their best thinking, and I'm going to help them propel our healthcare forward because that's a better side to live from. Than to live from the side of here are the list of people I'm never going to interview because they wronged me in some way. So those are the, those are the two things I would say I've learned over the years.
Yeah. Thanks Bill. That's really touching. And going back to your first comment, early on in my career, you kind of realize I used to take my badge. I always turned it upside down or stick it in my coat pocket so that people didn't know who I was or where I worked, but just kind of treated me more as a person versus a role. So that's great advice.
Yeah. Remember that year that I was talking to Russ about this. We were at HIMSS and CHIME and they put our names and then they put CIO's like the big old badge underneath it. I'm like, I was looking at CIO after CIO that was like ripping the ribbon off before they walked through the floor I'm like, that was, I don't know whose idea that was. That was not a good idea.
It was definitely a vendor's idea. Hey I got one more question for you. So this is getting a little bit more to some content. So as you interview and chat with such a diverse group of leaders and in building your crystal ball, what are the 1, 2, 3 things that you are predicting that has a high likelihood of adopting within healthcare the next five years. Technology or otherwise. How do you see it changing?
This labor shortage isn't going away, especially the clinical labor shortage isn't going away. So I am specifically interviewing and looking for technologies that are going to address that. Reduce the need for labor. It used to be we were worried that the the clinicians or the nurses were going to respond and say, you're trying to take my job. Now, what they're saying is help. It's a completely different conversation. And so I've talked to a bunch of cIOs about a different automation tools that I've looked at. The stuff I talked about earlier that Stephanie's doing on the clinical side is, is really fascinating to me anywhere where we have a person doing relatively mundane tasks that they would rather not do. Anything that requires you to sit there with a pen and whatever.
I'm looking at those very closely. Automation in any area, especially I believe that we are going to start thinking about our infrastructure as a platform. And I know that that's a buzzword, but all the elements that a platform has, if we start thinking about our internal IT infrastructure, as that we should think about it, that it can grow and shrink as we need it.
It should be addressable via APIs. Our infrastructure, addressable via API so that we can, we can grow it or shrink it or reprovision or all those things via code because where security is going right now, we're going to need to do that. I talked to a company who provisions all their stuff in the cloud.
And when they sense that an attacks coming in, they actually just kill off that workload and they've responded over here. So it creates such a much more intense and challenging attack vector for somebody that's like, oh, we didn't get in in time. Now we've got to start over on this one. Well, they're just going to go somewhere else. It's just a lot easier. You almost have to think of your infrastructure as a platform. A code block that is malleable to what you need to do, because I think healthcare is going to continue to change. We're going to continue to be asked to do things we haven't done before.
You know IOT devices in the home. Security in different ways than we've done it before. The care venues are just going to continue to change. You know, it used to be, well we have the acute care facility and ambulatory and then it was retail. Now it's home, but home is just a proxy for anywhere. Anywhere that somebody is is where we should take healthcare. So those are two areas. Then the other area, I don't know how it's ever going to get funded. The whole social determinants of health. That's the, that's the hardest thing. That's the thing I like about Intermountain is, Intermountain has sort of adopted areas and they're really investing in those areas and they're, they're trying to figure it out.
And I think it's going to take those for lack of a better term, more well off, scaled health systems to build the models and then show the rest of us how we can do it. And maybe even develop the core technologies and give it to us to do because there doesn't seem to be funding for it.
So we need, we need leaders to get out there and innovate and drive down the cost so the rest of us can do it. We've got to drive health and not continue to rely on sick care moving forward. I dunno if I answered your question, this is how I feel. How does it feel to interview me? Cause I've I've interviewed you a handful of times and when you get done answering a question, I'm like he answered the question. That was a good answer.
No, this has been great. And I really appreciate you Bill kind of changing seats and allowing me to be able to interview you and I can see why now you're such a, a bucket of knowledge because I gained several different, good nuggets by just having this sit down with you. So thank you for what you do. Thank you for taking the time out of the day and thank you for all your contributions to our industry. It really makes a difference.
Thank you again for doing this and thank you for being a part of TownHall. I think it's going to be a wonderful addition to our channels, so thank you again. You're 📍 welcome.
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