“I didn't even know there was such a thing,” Richardson said. But the idea appealed to his interests in law, business and not-for-profit activities, and he soon began voraciously reading material from the American Hospital Association in order to get up to speed on the field.
“By my junior year, I was pretty interested in it,” Richardson said. “I thought that what would really help me would ... (be to) ... work on a ward.”
It was early experiences such as one at a local New Jersey hospital—where Richardson assisted in the general nursing and critical-care units—that taught him about the inner workings of a hospital. Even as he was doing general prep with patients and lunching with nurses, Richardson says he was learning about the economics of healthcare.
That led him to the University of Chicago for an MBA and later a Ph.D. in health policy. But while completing a residency at NYU Hospital while working on his MBA, Richardson volunteered to conduct a study on the utilization of hospital facilities and the economics associated with treating patients requiring varying levels of care.
“That got me very interested in research,” Richardson said.
As then-chairman of the Institute of Medicine's committee on quality care, Richardson played critical roles in developing two of the IOM's most high-profile reports—To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System, published in 1999, and Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, a follow-up report published in 2001.