Great River Health System President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Richardson
will retire Sunday, Dec. 31. Richardson made the announcement Thursday
to employees and the medical staff at his quarterly State of the Health
Great River Health System is a 378-bed comprehensive, regional health care
system based in West Burlington, Iowa. It includes Great River Medical
Center, Great River Klein Center, primary-care and specialty clinics,
Heritage pharmacies, and Heritage Medical Equipment and Supplies.
Richardson, 58, joined the health system in April 1997, three months before
the groundbreaking for a new hospital and two medical office buildings.
Besides overseeing continued growth, he is credited for changing the culture
of one of Iowa’s largest independent hospitals and health systems.
“Replacing Mark Richardson is going to be a big challenge,”
said Bob Fleming. Fleming was president of Great River Health System’
Board of Directors when Richardson was hired, and he remains on the board.
“Looking back, we wanted to see the health system’s culture
change. There was a need for the new person to focus on patient satisfaction
and safety, and performance improvement. Mark’s leadership has allowed
us to remain one of the strongest health systems in Iowa. He did what
we wanted him to do, and he did it better than we expected.”
Richardson led the implementation of the health system’s EXCEL values
in 1998. EXCEL stands for
Caring and compassionate,
Energetic teamwork, and
Leadership and professionalism. Intensive customer-service training for
employees began the same year. In 2001, Great River Medical Center’s
inpatient satisfaction scores exceeded the 90th percentile for the first time.
Surveys are conducted by Press Ganey Associates, the world’s leading
developer of survey tools and methodologies for the health care industry.
The following year, Richardson and other hospital leaders traveled to Washington,
D. C., to receive Press Ganey Associates’ Success Story Award. The
awards are presented each year to hospitals that have identified the need
for improvement in patient satisfaction and have successfully implemented
and realized initiatives for change. In the capitol, they gave a presentation
on changing a hospital’s culture to a national audience.
Two decades of growth
A native of Fort Dodge, Iowa, Richardson received his bachelor’s
and master’s degrees from the University of Iowa. Before joining
Great River Health System, he was hospital administrator for DeWitt Community
Hospital, Dewitt, Jane Lamb Health Center in Clinton, and North Country
Health Services in Bemidji, Minnesota. While in Bemidji, he was named
one of 10 Outstanding Minnesotans.
Great River Health System has had only two presidents in the last 48 years.
Richardson continued building on a solid financial foundation established
by former President and CEO Glen Heagle that led to the construction of
the $120 million hospital and two medical office buildings. Great River
Medical Center opened April 4, 2000.
The new hospital, one of few built in the Midwest at that time, became
one of the best hospitals in Iowa, and the most technologically advanced
for a facility of its size. It became one of the first in the state to
offer integrated PET/CT scanning and digital mammography. In 2015, it
was the first hospital in Iowa to use a new stent for treating coronary
Construction of new facilities has continued. After the hospital and office
buildings, the largest freestanding construction projects were Great River
Hospice House, the only hospice house in southeast Iowa, which opened
in 2007, and the 4-year-old Great River Klein Center, a 160-bed long-term
and skilled-care center that replaced a smaller facility in Burlington.
Under Richardson's leadership, Great River Health System has expanded
services to help meet health care needs in southeast Iowa. More than 15
new health system clinics have been developed on the health system's
West Burlington campus, and regional clinics were established in Fairfield,
Fort Madison, Keokuk and Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
The health system's medical staff has grown more than 50 percent during
Richardon's administration. Equally important, most physicians are
now employed by the health system, which enhances quality and improved
coordination of care.
In 2008, the health system began a management contract with Henry County
Health Center in Mount Pleasant to help ensure the future of that critical-access hospital.
Richardson helped establish Great River Health System' Community Endowment
Foundation, which has awarded more than $1.5 million to organizations
in its five-county service area to foster health-related services that
may otherwise not be available to communities.
The 2014 conversion to a new electronic medical record system was the health
system’s largest project since the opening of Great River Medical
Center, and the Eastman and Mercy plazas.
“After we moved to this campus in 2000, I told our employees they
would never again experience anything this significant in their careers.
I spoke too soon,” Richardson said in 2014. “Converting to
a new electronic health record and data system is the electronic equivalent
of building and moving to a new hospital.”
The new system has improved the efficiency and safety of care by condensing
patient records to one source, preventing unnecessary tests and providing
an online portal for patients to view their medical records.
One of Richardson’s early goals was making Great River Health System
the “employer of choice” in Southeast Iowa. Under his leadership,
the number of Great River Health System employees has grown from 1,014 to 2,350.
The health system has placed high in the rankings of the Des Moines Register’s
annual Top 150 Workplaces since 2013. In this year’s independent
survey associated with the newspaper poll, employee comments included:
- “We have the best work environment and facilities, and the best people!”
- “I love my job because of the support we receive from staff and management.
We have great leaders in our health system.”
- “There is positivity and a sense of pride. Great teamwork and wonderful
management. I am thankful and blessed to be an employee of Great River
With an emphasis on employee health and well-being, the health system earned
the American Psychological Association’s National Psychologically
Healthy Workplace Award and Wellness Councils of America’s silver
Well Workplace Award. It also received a platinum-level award from the
American Heart Association for helping employees eat better and move more.
In 2006, Kid Zone Day Care Center opened on the health system’s campus
to provide convenient child care for employees.
State and local service
Richardson was elected to the Iowa Hospital Association Board of Officers
and Trustees in 2003 and later was elected chairman. In 2014, he received
the association’s Excellence in Leadership Award for outstanding
achievement in the management of a hospital or health system, and for
involvement in the comprehensive area of health affairs.
Richardson also served as board chairman of Health Enterprises, an organization
that provides programs and services that support community-based health care.
Locally, he served as president of Burlington-West Burlington United Way
and Burlington Junior Achievement, and chairman of the Grow Greater Burlington
Board of Directors. He was named Mississippi Valley Council Boy Scouts
of America’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year in 2007.
“Mark Richardson has been a tremendous asset to Great River Health
Systems,” said board chairman Dan Wiedemeier. “His visibility
and approachability are among his greatest strengths. His good example
inspires employees to do their best for our patients and their families,
and the community.”
A nationwide search for a president and CEO will begin soon, and a new
leader for Great River Health System is expected to be announced by early November.
20 years of growth
Construction projects and new clinics during President and CEO Mark Richardson’s
tenure at Great River Health System:
- Great River Klein Center, 2014
- Great River Orthopaedic Specialists, 2012
- Health Fitness gym, 2012
- Great River Clinic, Wapello, 2010
- Great River Hospice House, 2007
- Behavioral Health Unit, 2006
- Digestive Health Center, 2006
- Emergency transportation building, 2006
- Heart and Vascular Center, 2006
- Kid Zone Child Care Center, 2006
- Snake Alley Rehabilitation, 2006
- Great River Medical Center, 2000
New health system clinics
- Great River Business Health
- Great River Cardiology
- Great River Eye Specialists
- Great River Family Practice Clinic
- Great River Gastroenterology
- Great River Healthy Living Clinic
- Great River Medicine Specialists
- Great River Mental Health
- Great River Nephrology
- Great River Orthopaedic Specialists
- Great River Pulmonology
- Great River QuickCare
- Great River Surgeons
- Great River Urology
- Great River Women’s Health
- Great River Wound and Hyperbaric Clinic
- The Keokuk Clinic