Russ Richmond had the kind of childhood you would expect a medical-student-turned-tech-CEO to have.
He fondly remembers walking alongside ponds and exploring creeks as a child, inspired by his mother’s interest in zoology. But he also had an entrepreneurial side, which he fostered through a series of self-run businesses during his later childhood years, including one called “Doctor Driveway,” a driveway sealing service he ran with friends and family during the summer months.
When it came time to choose between his two interests — biology and business — for a collegiate field of study, he chose biology, earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and going on to attend medical school at the University of Cincinnati.
During his time in residency, his business side came calling. It was 1999, and the dot-com bubble was taking hold of many entrepreneurial-minded people, including Richmond.
“All this excitement and activity was happening around me, and I thought, ‘There’s a bigger world here,’” he recalled.
Richmond joined McKinsey & Company as a consultant and eventually met a local entrepreneur who was building a healthcare talent management SaaS company called Advanced Practice Strategies. There unfolded a career opportunity that further allowed Richmond to marry his two greatest interests. Richmond served as CEO and board director, overseeing the company’s tremendous growth. After the company was purchased in 2017, he asked himself, “What’s next?”
The answer was Laudio, a technology company focused on empowering frontline managers that Richmond founded in 2017 with three colleagues he had worked with at APS. Laudio’s platform is designed to be an antidote for issues that have plagued the healthcare industry for the past several years, including labor supply shortages. But for Richmond, the platform isn’t designed to simply lighten workloads.
Laudio’s platform is designed to be an antidote for issues that have plagued the healthcare industry.
“We’re not just reducing the amount of work, but making the work that is done as efficient and effective as possible,” he said. “That’s the beauty of the platform.”
Leveraging his lifelong loves for both business and science, Richmond strives to bring this beauty to life for healthcare organizations across the country, and in doing so, enable providers to deliver the best level of care.
“We need people to go into this space and feel valued, and that just doesn’t happen without restructuring the work,” he said.
Below, Richmond outlines Laudio’s inception and purpose, its impact on health systems and the importance of embracing ownership as an entrepreneur.
Five years ago, we could see that labor productivity was going to be the number one issue for health systems. It was clear that there was a lot of tension in the employment market, even before the pandemic. There were secular trends around labor supply shortages, and the answers to these issues would hinge on working differently.
It wasn’t just about adding another app or solution onto the pile of everything else that everyone was already doing. We actually had to structurally change the work that was happening, which was informed by my background as a clinician and as a McKinsey consultant walking the halls of a hundred different hospitals.
That was the founding thesis behind Laudio, which is a set of workflow tools for frontline managers at health systems and those that are manager adjacent, such as assistant managers and unit coordinators. It removes work from their daily lives and helps them get a host of things done more effectively and efficiently. This spans major workflows: there are seven or eight major workflows, including employee rounding, patient rounding, quality care audits, new hire support and burnout prevention operations. We have a fundamental belief that all of these things belong in one platform, which is what we’re building at Laudio.
The second important component to it is, once we literally make all these workloads collaborative and easier under one hood, we want to make them action-oriented. This is proprietary technology that doesn’t just offer business intelligence (showing people what the trends are and helping them decide what to do next), it also tees up the next best actions for every manager in every area of the health system at any time. So whether you’re in housekeeping or the nurse manager of the intensive care unit, Laudio gives you a workflow interface to get all these workflows done while suggesting the next best actions for you to take, which are informed by our own risk models.
“Laudio doesn’t just offer business intelligence (showing people what the trends are and helping them decide what to do next), it also tees up the next best actions for every manager in every area of the health system.”
On its impact on patients:
Everyone working in the healthcare system wants to do the right thing. They’re there for a reason, and their heart is in the act of caring. Anything that takes them away from that or prevents them from doing more of that is a form of harm, especially during the pandemic, when the nation’s needs and caregivers’ needs were so high. That’s why you’re seeing so much burnout occur, not just at the manager level, but also at the caregiver level. So anything we can do to shift that balance and free up time is welcome.
This isn’t just a labor efficiency and labor productivity system, it’s also intended to improve burnout, because if you can actually get the same outputs or better outputs with less work, you’re starting to restructure the work that’s actually being done. We want to reduce this sense of harm or moral injury that comes from not being able to provide the care that people need and shift that balance and equation.
“We want to reduce this sense of harm or moral injury that comes from not being able to provide the care that people need.”
On the importance of ownership and getting started:
Taking ownership early matters, so if you’re an entrepreneur, don’t wait. Start building something as early as possible, whether it’s just you or you and some co-founders. The younger you can do it and learn through the ‘school of hard knocks,’ the better off you are, both from a productivity and an equity ownership standpoint.
The second thing is, when you build these businesses, build in areas that really matter to you personally. You’re stepping into a 10-year run, and if you’re not working on something that you have a real passion for, you’re going to burn yourself out and lose focus. How you do it might shift, with some pivots and learnings and adaptations, but the area itself won’t change. You want to spend time in an area that matters to you personally so you can make your own dent in the universe.