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The Emerging Role of a Chief Digital Officer in Healthcare: A Conversation with Craig Richardville - Part I
Posted by The HCI Group
on January 14, 2022 at 8:13 AM

Craig Richardville Chief Digital Officer Healthcare

Craig Richardville has been at the forefront of healthcare’s adoption of the position of chief digital officer. Long recognized as one of healthcare’s top chief information officers, Richardville took on the additional role of CDO at SCL Health within the past three years.

As one of the first CDOs, Richardville has been leading the drive to make healthcare a digital industry through innovation and transformation. He has also been one of the industry’s most vocal advocates, working with leaders from the legislative and executive branches of the federal government to create standards and new norms for health IT, for example.

Richardville shared insights on the industry, its technology, and its future during a conversation with leaders and team members from The HCI Group. This blog post includes excerpted comments from the discussion, which was led by his son Blake Richardville, a business development executive for The HCI Group.

Key drivers influencing the healthcare industry’s adoption of the CDO role

In many aspects, the CDO is a natural evolution of the CIO. But in terms of the key drivers, consumerism is first and foremost. People have choices now. They can select where they get their care. With that, you’ve got to be a lot more attractive and you’ve got to be able to get the attention of your customer.

Do they come to you for convenience? If you go back to years ago, the provider-side of healthcare was focused on the physician. Office hours were eight-to-five because that was convenient for the physician. But for most of us that work, that was the most inconvenient time for us to see our doctor because we were supposed to be working. So, on the convenience side, delivering healthcare to you where you’re at versus you having to come to us is a big piece. 

When you look at the CVSs of the world coming in and the Walmart Healths, those are opportunities for people to have more convenient places to seek their care. We’ve got to be as convenient as those are and as convenient as our competition. You also have to look at how you differentiate yourself. That’s where the digital piece comes into play.

The last driver that I would say is the customer’s expectations. We see it in our personal lives. If I want to send or receive money from Blake, I can quickly get out my phone and have him send me money and I can go ahead and deposit that money. Historically, it was a very clerical task to transfer money. You had to go to a bank or write a check and send it out. We do all of the work ourselves now though and we’re happy to do it because we have apps that are very easy and intuitive. People now have an expectation of that and healthcare is the next industry aligned to start to digitize itself.

StrategyNxt digital transformation

Interacting with other C-suite members as CDO

We need somebody who can be that bridge between all of that work that’s happening on the IT side and those that are actually hands-on with the tools that you’re providing. So, what you have seen recently is moving toward the strategy side. I’ve always said that my strategy is the company’s strategy. I’m here to serve and to move the levers that the company has put together. That’s what I do.

My relationship with the chief strategy officer is really close. She is right kitty-corner from where I'm at and just an amazing talent. And I learn a lot about what we're doing and how we're doing things and how I can take the things that are happening in my side of the business, or in many cases those that are happening outside of healthcare, and bring those into the organization. You’re starting to see a lot of relationships like these where you’re just a member of the C-suite. It doesn't really matter who you report to.

The digital officer role that I have is also very well aligned with our marketing officer. Our chief marketing officer and I actually co-lead our steering committee that does all the digital services. She does a piece of it on the marketing side and I have a piece of it internally on the employee side, as well as on the consumer side. And we just do that hand-in-hand and together.

A CDO’s importance to an organization

The way that we look at it, the CDO doesn’t have their own revenue stream. We have projects that are part of programs and that’s how we surface stuff up. As an example, if you looked at how I divided the digital piece up, our bottom line is the margin. That’s what we’re focused on. So, when you look at the creation of the digital workforce, a lot of the components of the digital workforce are meant to lower our expense structure. That is to lower the cost that it takes for us on the administrative side and in some cases on the clinical side to provide care. Every dollar saved, after netting out the cost to save that dollar, goes down to your bottom line

On the revenue side, it is more about the consumer and the patient. That's where marketing gets into play. But also with our contact centers that cross-sell, we want to make sure that we understand that when somebody's coming in or contacting us that we have about nine seconds to capture that person's attention and have him or her then want to spend more time with us. If not, they're gonna be focused on the one task at hand and, and move away from it.

Part of that is personalization. If I can somehow get the connection with that person coming in, I will help a different service line with their growth. I won't myself have my own revenue that I'm doing, but I will be able to contribute to some of the other service lines. And hopefully, it's more of the profitable ones from a business standpoint.

And from a clinical perspective, we just want to get them the right care and the best care. That's why contact is so important and having that digital piece to have that relationship so that we can capture and bring that person in here. We’re realizing that it is about their relationship with the health system because it can provide that whole 360-degrees-aspect of who you are and what you're doing. And as you move into value-based care, I need to know more about your social determinants and other factors over your life that come in, that I can help, better treat you and provide you with the access going in.

So, again, though the digital officer doesn't have its own P&L, we generate programs and we have projects underneath there that do have that impact.

Richardville also discussed how CDOs leverage data as well as other topics. Look out for Part 2 for more insights that he shared with The HCI Group.