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Kirk Larson, Chief Information Officer at Riverside Healthcare stops by to discuss what is top of mind in innovation at Riverside and how they deliver rural healthcare. Hope you enjoy.


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Today, we have another interview in action from the conferences that just happened down here in Miami and Orlando. My name is bill Russell. I'm a former CIO for a 16 hospital system and creator of this week health instead of channels, dedicated to keeping health it staff current and engaged. We want to thank our show sponsors who are investing in developing the next generation of health leaders, Gordian dynamics, Quill health tau site nuance, Canin, medical, and current health.

Check them out at this week. Here we go. Here we are from 5 20 22, and we have Kirk Larson here with Riverside healthcare. Kirk, we've known each other for awhile. It's , it goes all the way back to your NetApp. , how'd you how'd you get to Riverside? What was the path to get there?

Yeah.So as you said, I was with NetApp and wanted to get back to the provider side. So I was recruited to be the associate CIO at Rochester regional health. So did, up in New York, up in New York, upstate New York was there for several years. And then I was really fortunate that, as recruited to Riverside healthcare. My wife and I are from that area.

So it was exciting for us to get back home again. And, , Riverside I've I've really. Since I was a kid, just an outstanding health care system. And when the opportunity came along to DCIO was something that I jumped at. It's just a great place to be been there about nine months now and having a lot of fun.

So when I hear Riverside, there's, Riverside's in probably a lot of places. So tell us a little bit about Riverside.

Yeah, so, so Riverside is a single hospital integrated delivery network, health system about an hour south of Chicago. So we have a primary hub. And about 50 locations through five or six counties.

So we really provide the entire continuum of care, you know, for the central Illinois area. And, we've been around since the mid sixties on, and I'm always proud to say we have tremendous stability. We've only had three CEO's in our entire history. so that's really led to a lot of, I think our success and stability.

So we're really a pillar of the community, which is something that's also important to me. What's your EHR? Just curiosity. You're on epic. Yeah. So we installed epic in January of 2016. , again, I've only been there nine months, so I wasn't there for the install, but I've said all along.

I think they did an absolutely outstanding job with the install. , I mean, when you look at the, the suite of modules, we have, you know, we, we compare with really anyone out there. They really did a nice job and took a very comprehensive approach to that.

That's fantastic. What's top of mind, I mean, you're central Illinois. So is that considered rural health care or.

It's kind of a mix. So our, our service area, the, , the Northern edge of our service area kind of gets into the Southern Chicago suburbs. , but we also do have a large rural component as well. So kind of a, kind of a mix of both, but, , probably probably more and more, certainly more rural and not urban.

So, so what is top of mind for you as. a lot of things. So, you know, we, like I said, we have a really solid, , instance of epic, but now we want to take that to the next level, , optimization of epic, , our, you know, our digital strategy, automation, AI, , I think like everyone else here, we're, you know, we're, we're struggling with, , you know, finding staff and, you know, we need to figure out ways we can automate where we can, where it makes sense, have a digital strategy that not only attracts, but also retained.

So, it's an exciting time to not be just implementing things, but also optimizing what we have the the non-urban. Well, that's what we'll call you. The non-urban health systems, , have a challenge, right? So it's, it's not like you can place a hundred vets. You, you get to place a handful of beds. They have to be well vetted.

And you know, you, you have to look at the ROI. So when you talk about the digital foundation and those. , a lot of times the non-urban players are looking at the urban players and saying, okay, what's already working. And that kind of stuff. When you come to a conference like this, what do you, what are you looking for when you, when you go on the floor?

And I think that that's, that's well sad because you're right. But we, we, we can't do a, a, you know, a shotgun approach. We really need to be very purposeful. So, you know, to me, I'm, I'm looking for, , creative, innovative solutions to these challenges because we're all. I'm not going to be able to spend the money of a massive healthcare system either.

So, you know, looking, looking for companies that have, , good experience, new ideas, , and really, you know, ways that they can connect with us strategically and, , and be willing to be, be willing to be our partners and, you know, not so much, , you know, yet another vendor. So, and I suppose some time on the floor and there's, there's some interesting companies out there, some of which I was familiar with.

Well, I asked you some of, some of them I was not familiar with. So

some of those small boosts are interesting. I mean, you literally have like the programmer and the founder sitting there. Yeah. Let me, , and it's a lot of cases. It's not a PowerPoint deck or anything to that effect. I mean, they're, they're showing your code and they're showing you what they're actually doing.

It's kind of interesting. What, so you talked about problem sets. So when you come to something like this, you, you have a set of problems in the back of your head that you're walking the floor, say. Am I seeing something around pathology. Am I seeing something around mental health or what, what are the problems sets that you are, you sort of have in the back of your head right now as you're walking around?

Well, I think it's, it really is that, that digital piece. And I was actually in a focus group yesterday and people said, you know, what, what does that exactly mean? Or what are the kind of a top three things? And, you know, I was not being facetious. And I said, number one on that list is figuring out what digital strategy means.

Right? It's one of those things that a few years ago, people were talking about AI and cloud. All of a sudden all those other things. So I think the first step is really figuring out what exactly does that mean for us, for the industry, for our patients. , and then from there, I w I think once you weigh in on that, you can think about, you know, what, what is the digital strategy?

How do we automate things and how can we leverage AI as well? I mean, there, there's a lot of, , benefit to, again, in a meaningful way, identifying what that, what that AI is and how that can help with the digital.

Yeah. So do you have the same problems around like a clinical staffing shortages and those kinds of things in your,

we do, we do it.

It's, it's, it's challenging. And you know, we, we certainly value every, every clinical person who's on our team and they do such, such special work. , and it's, , it's as I do rounding throughout the organization, it's, it's really just amazing to see what these folks do every single day. We need more of them.

So it's people

like you that amazed me. I was on a panel once and I'm standing there. Okay. I've got, , I've got 700 people reporting it to me. I've got, , we're spending 250 to $300 million a year in it. And, , that kind of stuff. And, , this woman next to me had, I think, six, it staff, whatever, but she had all the same thing.

She had the same government regs. She had the same cyber security challenges. She had the same, , you know, all the same problems I had with. Budget and stuff. I, I felt, , I felt bad. I felt like, okay, I'm going to give you a portion of my budget because she had to figure out a lot of creativity, a lot of really hard work to figure out all the things that I had to figure out.

Cause she's, , again, you know, we have this thing going on in the Ukraine and we're in a heightened state of alert. Well, your health system on a heightened state of alert and as well as, you know, rush and. Chicago. I mean all the big Chicago systems, but they have staff and money. Right. And you guys have to, you know, follow that and whatever.

I mean, how has, how do you, how do you, I mean, first of all, amazing, , but how do you do it? I mean, how do you make sure that every everything's covered and to look at digital

innovation? Yeah, no, I, I appreciate you saying that. Cause you know, Billy, you know, I've, I've been at different organizations in my career.

I've been at smaller places, bigger places. And, and the first thing I would say. And although it sounds a little bit of cliche, but it's absolutely true is I'm so fortunate to have such an outstanding team, , that the folks who work within its and we, we do purposely call it its information technology services, , the leaders and the people on that team, they are so dedicated and so talented.

, I actually just had this conversation with some folks at epic about a month ago, just talking about, you know, to me like our managers, managers are Riverside. I would put that. , at least on a director level and a lot of, a lot of other

places, I wouldn't tout that too much to this audience because I'm talking to health systems now that have like a 48 state hiring strategy and you have talented, epic people.

And they're like, well, I could hire him and pay him New York rates. And you know, that's one of the challenges you guys are facing. , but yeah, no, I, I agree with you. It is. If you're only successful as your team. , you try to provide that leadership that, , that just helps them and gets things out of the way for them so they can get

things done.

Yeah. And it's not only the leadership level, it's really the entire organization, the people. And I don't want to name every role, but pick a role. , engineers are, you know, the death side folks, the epic analysts. And we're also really fortunate. We have a lot of, , clinical folks, , in a way within our, within our epic team.

It's so important to provide that perspective. And I've been in some meetings. You know, literally in the past few weeks where I've just been so amazed at not only their knowledge, but also the collaboration that we have with, , the operations folks.

The last question. So you came from NetApp, , does that help you to deal with partners, vendor partners differently because you have been on the other side of the


It absolutely does bill. , and I was just kind of teasing some folks last night that I have an appreciation for working at booth or striking a deal. Or, you know, negotiating from both sides of the table. So I've also been a consultant, so I've been a provider, a consultant than a vendor. And so you walk through the booze with empathy.

I do with tremendous empathy. So I always look at their shoes and think, boy, those are, those are some long days, long day or some long days.

Kirk, thank you for your time, bill. It's always a pleasure. Thanks. Another great interview. I want to thank everybody who spent time with us at the conferences. It is phenomenal that you shared your wisdom and your experience with the community, and it is greatly appreciated.

We also want to thank our channel sponsors who are investing in our mission to develop the next generation of health leaders, Gordian dynamics, Quill health tau site nuance, Canon medical, and current health. Check them out at this week. Thanks for listening. That's all for now.

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