Well, it sure wasn’t the small firms themselves, but rather the “Big Eight,” who realized the word “boutique” had derogatory connotations they would like to stick on their competitors:
Small in size, thus raising the fear of being too small…
Specialists , so maybe not able to meet all your needs…
Feminine -sounding, not like the big macho audit guys…
In fact, the small firms who specialized in HIS had much to offer:
They knew hospitals only , inside and out:
Not banking, manufacturing, insurance, etc.
They knew HIS vendors intimately:
The gory details of SMS, HBO, Meditech, etc.
Their staff were generally HIS veterans :
Few of the “Juniors” that populated Big 8’s.
• In truth, both had their pros & cons, to this day…
Who Were The First Boutiques?
There were dozens of HIS boutique firms formed in the 70s & 80s, that specialized in the HIS industry alone.
Four of the pioneering firms we’ll profile were:
Sheldon I. Dorenfest & Associates (SIDA), founded by one of the true HIS mavens…
The Kennedy Group , founded by O. George Kennedy, who sadly passed way too soon…
Ron Johnson & Associates , whose eponymous founder was an early MIS and McAuto vet…
Healthcare Management Counselors (HMC) a powerhouse in NYC and its suburb: Florida…
These four all made it pretty big, giving the Big Eight a run for their money during the 80’s, and many live on today, merged or acquired…
Sheldon I. Dorenfest & Associates
I start with Shelly’s firm because it’s where I started consulting myself , way back in 1985. But SIDA itself started much earlier:
Remember an early HIS-tory episode on minis that featured Compucare ? Well (as Sheldon so often starts a sentence…), it was founded in 1969 by him and Ron Apprahamian on the brilliant premise that “Facilities Management” offered the perfect partners to build an HIS: hospitals themselves!
Instead of programmers working in a vacuum at HQ trying to guess what users wanted, FM clients could show programmers on site just what they needed...
Sheldon sold his Compucare holdings around 1975,
and started consulting to both vendors and hospitals.
He offered hospitals the usual MIS Strategic Plans,
System Selections, Installation assistance, etc.
But it was his offering to vendors that really shone:
The Dorenfest “Guide”
I first encountered the Dorenfest “Guide” at McAuto in 1980:
Sheldon contacted me in St. Louis where I was Marketing Services Manager under Art Randall. He sold us his “Guide,” the first and most amazingly thorough study of the HIS industry.
He created it by surveying 250 “Sample Hospitals” who were either consulting clients of his, or willing to share their HIS plans, expenses, staffing, application portfolios, vendors products, etc.
The result was a tome as valuable as it was thick, with hundreds of tables & text covering every aspect of HIS, from clinical app soup to financial app nuts.
He later expanded it to cover 3,000 hospitals over 150 beds, with data stored in a custom data base that could be sliced & diced by vendor clients...
He eventually sold it to HIMSS in the mid 2000s, where it lives on today as their “HIMSS Analytics.”
“ The Kennedy Group”
O. George Kennedy was an early member of Lockheed’s team from 1970 – remember the pioneering “MIS” EMR project at El Camino?
Other early HIS-tory heroes who worked at Lockheed included Dr. Ralph Korpman of later UltiCare fame, as well as the founder of our next Boutique firm who we’ll meet in a few more slides…
I first met George at HIS Inc. in Brooklyn where he visited us for a look at our mainframe software – I can still see his glazed eyes around 4PM in the afternoon after watching 8 hours of demo screens…
George was a Ph.D. and leveraged his deep knowledge of the HIS industry to build The Kennedy Group, founded in Chicago in 1978.
When I left HIS Inc., I considered working for him at $400 a day (which he billed out at $800 per day) – it seemed a fortune at the time, even after the 50% mark-up! Of course, today…
Ron L. Johnson & Associates
Ron started at Lockheed’s MIS and was a McAuto super-salesman in the 1970’s before he formed his consultancy.
His claim to fame was to consult to vendors :
He wrote a series of annual reports starting
around 1984 that profiled leading vendors:
Products, pricing, history, strategy, etc.
I remember buying one once for some vendor, and marveling at the wealth of detail. Unlike SIDA’s Guide that covered hospitals , Ron dug deep into vendors , including strengths & weaknesses .
Which was challenging as we vendors always felt he never had enough of our former, and far too many of our latter…
and vice – versa about our nasty, weak, pathetic competitors!
But Ron always told it like it was, to his great credit, and was still working as of just a few years ago. Maybe he still is today?!
Healthcare Management Counselors
Formed by Peter Weil & Helen Levine in ‘82, HMC was a dominant boutique consultancy, specializing in the demanding NYC market.
Peter had a nice accent that lent a charming air of continental sophistication to his astute pronouncements on HIS vendors.
Helen was an attractive and intelligent young lady in an age of male dominance, one of the first female consulting super-stars.
Naturally, as the male chauvinist pig that I am, I got to know Helen more than Peter.
She had worked her way up through the corporate ranks of Exxon and then learned consulting at Booze, Allen and Hamilton.
HMC eventually merged with Kurt Salmon & Associates in 1997, ending their long run.
Another lady super-star at HMC was Elaine Remmlinger, left, a later VP at KSA…
The “Other” Boutiques
So who were the other HIS Boutique consultancies besides SIDA, Kennedy, Johnson & HMC? Here are a few from a 1985 study:
So, was that it, the Big Eight and the Boutiques, for HIS consulting? Hardly! Anyone who lost their job could hang out a shingle…
Advanced Computer Services
Automated Health Care Systems
Computer Management Systems
Corporate Information Systems
Data Processing Consultants
Executive Consulting Group
Health Central Inc.
Healthcare Systems Group
Info. Systems Management
Nelson Data Resources
Pagnotta & Associates
Systems Manage-ment Inc.
William F. Andrews
“ Creative” Boutique Names
Some of the names of these boutique firms were fascinating themselves! Would you buy HIT consulting from a firm named:
I did not make these up! They all appear in the 1985 study from SysteMetrics, entitled the “Hospital Information Systems Profile”
Advanced Concepts (no obsolete ones)
Assertive Systems (all male?)
Dakota Systems (north or south?)
Benchmark Systems (know where you start)
Beta Consultants (2 nd best?)
Cedar Consultants (a splinter group?)
Cajun Computers (didn’t sell well in Minn!)
Christech Consultants (CHI/CHW specialists?)
Comaccounts (sic! Or is it “sick”?)
Computer Sense (no nonsense)
Computers West (HQ in NYC?)
Current Company (obsolete?)
Helm & Co. (planning?)
More “Creative” Names
I can’t believe some of these names! If you’re still out there and have grown to a $1B giant, please don’t sic your attorneys on me!
Internally Developed (RFP specialists)
Loeb & Troper (wasn’t that a murder case?)
Lynn Outlaw (Even I won’t touch that one!)
Moore Data Services (what they want you to buy…)
Northern Data Systems (Cajun’s Minn. Office?)
Computer Network Group (LANs & WANs?)
Oklahoma Innovative Systems (competes with Northern & Cajun…)
Practical Health Systems (they’d never recommend Epic…)