• The story of HBO begins with its 3 namesakes:
– Walter Huff, founder, chairman and CEO
– Bruce Barrington, who led development
– Richard Owens, who led implementation
• And a surprising re-appearance of a fourth HIS-tory hero who
actually started the troika off on their HIS development path…
- Bet not a single HIS-talk reader can guess who this was!?!?
• Credit for this episode goes to Walt Huff who kindly took time off
from his busy retirement (he still works with former CFO Larry
Gerdesat Gerdes-Huff Investments) to tell this inside HIS-story.
• Walt graduated from Monmouth
College in Illinois in 1956 as an
economic major – yes another
“frozen north” HIS vendor roots!
• Walt never forgot his debt to Monmouth College, eventually
funding their multi-million-dollar Huff Athletic Center, above.
• He started his business career working for the accounting firm of
Peat, Marwick and Mitchell – another pattern? Our last episode
on Cerner traced the roots of Patterson, Gorup&Illig from AA…
• Turns out PM&M was big in Healthcare in Illinois back then, and
young Walt was assigned to one of their major local clients:
• The Sisters of the Third Order of St Francis in
Peoria, IL (OSF). Walt gradually became the
manager of that account, and grew increasingly
frustrated with their crude NCR posting card
system (see episode 5 at hispros.com for details),
that made balancing cash & AR a daily nightmare.
HIS-tory Hero Redux
• Walt was quite impressed that OSF had installed an IBM 1401
keypunch card system to automate patient accounting functions
in the early ‘60s. And who was the DP Manager at OSF? You may
as surprised as I to learn it was none other than Urban Gerber,
the same man of later Gerber-Brehm and Gerber-Alley fame (see
episodes 22 & 23 for details of these turnkey mini pioneers)!
• Walt left PM&M to become OSF’s CFO in
1963, and they upgraded to an IBM 360
series mainframe in the mid-60s, joining
nearby Caterpillar as 360 devotees.
• All 11 OSF hospitals easily ran on the new hadrware, but software
was another issue. They tried running IBM’s PAL and SHAS, but
didn’t like the batch processing, so R&D maven Bruce Barrington
built OSF’s own Centralized Real-time Accounting System for
Hospitals, aka “CRASH” (I’m not making this up!). Urban left OSF to
join Ross Perot, and Dick Owens led the CRASH installation effort.
From Crash to SHIS to HFC
• OSF’sCRASH used IBM 1050 terminals at its hospitals throughout IL,
transmitting data back to the central OSF mainframe in Peoria,
enabling real-time inquiry into AR accounts (like SHAS), as well as
real-time edits (a vast improvement over SHAS’ batch TCEs…).
• Walt’s next challenge was eliminating the 2-3% of lost charges
hospitals incurred, so his team began to write a Shared Hospital
Information System (“SHIS” – thankfully, the word Technology
wasn’t in vogue at the time…) with on-line Order Entry replacing
multi-part charge requisition forms with their carbon-paper copes
requiring physical delivery to ancillaries and the B.O. SHIS was
funded through a government grant Walt received for ≈$3M.
• SHIS employed the same plastic overlays that SMS’
Mike Mulhallused at Monmouth in NJ at IBM’s
pioneering HIS project (see episode 8 for details) to
guide clinicians through the (too) many keystrokes…
CRASH & SHIS go commercial
• The Illinois Hospital Association (IHA) was so impressed by Walt’s
teams’ new systems that they installed CRASH at 31 member
hospitals by 1970, when OSF also completed the 1st demo of SHIS.
• OSF's DP department was now generating more revenue than
some of its smaller hospitals, and its Board decided to spin off the
outside business, reaffirming their hospital-based mission only.
• The leading bidder was nearby McDonnell-Douglas in
St. Louis, who sent a consultant named Chuck Barlow
to study the potential. Chuck’s report was so glowing
that Bob Harmon, head of their McAuto DP division, told Chuck: “If
you’re so bullish, you run it” – and the rest is HIS-tory…
• Not surprisingly, McAuto re-named CRASH as HFC (Hospital
Financial Control), and SHIS morphed into HPC (Hospital Patient
Control), a predecessor to the later, Tandem-based PCS. Walt,
Bruce & Dick all came along with the deal reporting to Chuck, but
were allowed to stay in Peoria and run the 360 data center there.
Mighty Minis Match Mainframes
• In the early 70s, minicomputers started their entrée
into the DP world, and Bruce Barrington explored Four
Phase minis as a front-end to HFC, replacing the
keypunch-card 1050 terminals. To quote Walt directly:
“Barrington became very familiar with the equipment and software, even
maybe knowing more about its capabilities than Four Phase
themselves. By 1972 I had made a presentation requesting funds to
develop a data collection system using Four Phase equipment. MCAUTO
turned it down saying that little minicomputers would never replace
mainframes…” what a quote - sounds like what most IT pundits said
about PCs a decade later! And what my Microsoft DOS
friends said when I bought my first Apple Mac in 1987…
• “Bruce decided to leave and develop the software on his own. Four Phase let him
use their facilities in Chicago at night. Bruce was a great innovator of software
and created his own operating system on Four Phase called ROS which ran
MEDPRO. After a couple of months he got Owens to join him in the effort and
finally by 1973 they had convinced me that they had something very worth while.”
HBO Is Born!
• So there it is, right from the horses mouth: how HBO was born,
and another HIS pioneer, Urban Gerber, helped them get started!
Next week we’ll pick up the fascinating inside story from Walt
about how he, Bruce and Dick built MedPro and IFAS, played
some fascinating corporate games over their Co. name, etc.
• But first some more feedback from HIS-Talk readers about those
puzzling picture portraits – starting with an old SIDA friend:
– Hi Vince, I trust you are doing well and like me, gracefully getting old???
I was just reading you’re HIS-tory for Monday, Oct 14th, and let me offer
the following... C on Slide 11... is that Rick Adam (sp?) from the old IBAX
days? Also, P on Slide 11... isn’t that Mark Fidler from his Continental
days, then Clinicom, and a few other companies....?
Love your work; it really does bring back some good memories.
Larry Pawola, PharmD, MBA, Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Biomedical and Health Information
University of Illinois at Chicago (312) 996-1446”
On The Other Hand…
• However, picture C also got this input form another reader:
– Rhonda Russell, VP, EIS Services, Bell South:
“On Bill Child's portraits, C might be Glen Rosenletter, formerly the head
of international business for HBO. And on the timeline, Quadramed is
Duncan James, not Jim Duncan
• Ohhhh, I’m such an idiot spelling Duncan James’ name wrong on
the C-Suite timeline. And I’m going with Rhonda over Larry for
picture C – after Walt Huff thought it looked like him too:
“Glen Rosenletter was a star salesman at HBO when I was there.”
• Jeff Parypinski, VP at RelayHealth, also caught the Duncan gaffe
and pointed out a brand new CEO at Healthland:
1. Chris Bauleke, formerly of McKesson, is now CEO of Healthland.(Angie
Franks now reports to him)
2. The Jim Duncan listed under QuadraMed is actually Duncan (1st
name) James (last name).
But Wait, There’s More…
- Don Morrison - R.Ph., MBA, Florida Health Alliance
• “Vince, I believe that the individual on Page 11, Letter “P” is Mark
Fidler, who is believe is still a recruiter in the HIS Industry. I believe he
is a former McAuto person from the 80’s, but don’t have a lot of other
background on him, other than he has come up with a couple of
positions for me over the years. His phone number is 817-251-8913
and his email is fidlerm@aol. I haven’t spoken with him in a couple of
years so I’m not sure if that information is current. I have enjoyed
your series immensely. One company that I have not seen, or may
have missed, is SoftComputer. I believe that I met you in the mid
90’s when you were doing a selection involving them and I was
attempting to develop a pharmacy system for them (by
myself!). They would surely make an interesting story, I’d say that
they are the biggest secret in HIS as practically no one has heard of
them and I believe they have hundreds of customers. (And a totally
unique style which would even make Judy Faulker appear
normal). Anyway, best of luck, thanks for the series, and I’m pretty
sure that guy is Mark Fidler. Take care. Don”
Mark Gross Rosenletter
Peter Marsh Ford Phillips Shirley Hughes Mark Fidler
• So here’s how things
stand identifying these
faces in Bill Childs’
challenge from an article
in his Computers in
Healthcare magazine from
the late 1980s.
• I’m going with Rhonda on
picture C unless any
readers can decide
between her and Larry
Pawola’s suggestion it
might be Rick Adams!?
HBO’s C-Suite Timeline
• As if he has nothing else to do, Walt Huff was kind enough to
clear up HBO’s long line of Chairmen & Presidents over decades:
“Vince, I just got to looking in detail at the HBO time line. The following are
people and approximate dates as I remember them.
- 1973 founding and Huff was Chairman, CEO and President
- 1983 John Lawless became President
- 1984 Holding company formed and Jim Napier was President of Holding
company. John Lawless was CEO and President of HBO sub
- 1985 Holding company abandoned, Huff = Chairman, President and CEO
- 1986 Lawless left company
- 1990 Huff left as officer and board member. Holcomb Green became
Chairman, Darrell Young president of HBO (mini computer division),
Robert Murrie President of MEDILEX (Facilities Management), Larry
Gerdes, President of the Equipment Maintenance Sub)
- 1991 Holcomb Green Chairman, Charlie McCall, President
- 1995/6 Charlie McCall Chairman, CEO and President
Hope that helps, and dates are the best I can remember. Walt”
Latest Vendor C-Suite Timeline
- With HBO’s executives, Duncan spelled correctly, and Angie’s new boss:
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