September 1987 in H.I.S.-tory
• It’s amazing to think that HIStalk has been on-line for over 10
years, leading to the “This Week in Health IT History” column,
with headlines each week from 1, 5 and 10 years ago.
• This has inspired me to dig back into my paper files, disk drives
and HIS-tory series from a few years ago to find out what was big
news as far back as 30 years ago, and what lesson apply to today.
• My sources are as complex as our industry:
- PERIODICALS –pioneering print journals
founded by industry great Bill Childs.
- DATA BASES – created by Sheldon
Dorenfest, the research maven in H.I.S.
- FRIENDS – H.I.S. pioneers willing to share
embarrassing stories of their early days.
- MEMORIES – while I still have them…
• Bill pointed out how other vendors like Tandem, Digital (DEC),
Texas Instruments and Convergent Technologies offer more
powerful hardware at far lower costs. Shows the power of
marketing over technology: IBM was the name in computers in
the early years, just like today Microsoft totally dominates the
business PC world (do any hospitals not have Windows & Office
on their thousand of devices?) and Apple now totally owns the
personal PC world (what “i” do you own: pod, pad or phone?).
• In his opening page editorial of
Healthcare Computing &
Communications, Bill Childs had the
courage to question IBM’s huge
dominance of the hardware market
so long after their near-monopoly
of mainframes in the 60s and 70s.
• Can one have a better background that starting with the
mainframe leader IBM, then the shared giant McAuto, and then
the minicomputer IHC whose MED/38 ran on IBM’s System 38?
Despite the impressive-sounding interview, a year later IHC sold
MED/38 to GTE (gee…), who renamed it MedSeries4, then sold it
to SMS. What happened to Scott? He went to Sunquest next,
which was a leader in LIS systems along with Cerner back then, and
later joined a new acronym firm named after its founders: Kent
Gale, Leonard Black, Adam Gale and Scott. What a KLAS act!
• Feature story was an interview
with Scott Holbrook, who
started his career at IBM and
McAuto, then joined IHC
(Intermountain Health Care) in
1977, becoming VP of their
mini-based MED/38 in 1986.
• Believe it or not, HIMSS was a relatively new
and small player in the HIS conference market
back then. The places to go back then were:
• ECHO – Electronic Computing Health Oriented
which was IBM’s healthcare user group, held
at the beautiful Hotel Del Coronado in San
Diego, one of my favorite destinations.
Speakers were all IBM users gushing about
their 370 mainframes and System 3X minis.
• AHA – The American Hospital Association’s
annual convention which allowed all vendors
to have booths and meet hospital prospects.
How big was it? Would you believe 5,500
registrants and 481 exhibits! Not bad
considering HIMSS today is “only” ≈45K…
People In The News
• This one hurts: back in 1987, I was
fired as “President” of the MedTake
division of MicroHealthSystems. I use
quotation marks because I had only a
handful of direct reports, my main
job being sales, which I flopped at.
• The circled picture and story on the
right shows how Bruce Sherr
succeeded me, and did very well.
Ironically, he followed in my
footsteps at SMS in the 70s, and then
at HIS Inc. in the 80s. Today he’s
Director of Biz Development at
iSirona, a NantHealth Company.
Wanna try consulting next, Bruce?
More on IBM
• So how long did IBM’s dominance last? Interesting question if
you’re wondering how long today’s leading vendors might last:
– Just a few years later in 1993, IBM hit a record high annual
income of ≈$40B, however it’s bottom line was an $8B loss!
– Since its founding in 1911, IBM had never laid off a single
employee, and by 1993 they had ≈400K FTEs. The poor bottom
line prompted the dismissal of ≈100K employees, and IBM
gradually moved back into the black. Today, most of its
revenue comes from “services” – cloud hosting & consulting...
• After Bill’s opening critique,
this piece extolled IBM’s
power & dominance. Easy
to believe when they had
45% of all hospitals per
Dorenfest’s 1987 Guide...
• So just how long does the
typical HIS vendor last? To
give you an idea, take a
look at the list of vendors
advertising in the
September 1987 index at
the back of Computers in
Healthcare magazine and
see if you can recognize
any? Are any of the 31
vendors listed still running
under the same name
today – 30 years later?
• And they had a fairly
complex history of M & As:
– Founded in 1979 by PA
Pathologist Sid Goldblatt,
they battled Cerner for LIS
dominance for 2 decades.
– After an IPO in 1996,
Sunquest was acquired in
2001 by Misys and renamed
as their “HSD” division.
– In 2007 they were acquired
by Vista Equity Partners.
– In 2012, Sunquest was
acquired by Roper and now
battles SCC for leadership of
the dwindling LIS market…
Today’s Leading Vendor Longevity
• Sorry the print below is so small, but it’s a graph of the life cycle
of today’s leading vendors, which is so long it stretches Excel!
• The colors change as their ownership does, so the 4 most stable
vendors below all have solid colors in their long timeline bars:
– Meditech = 48 years old, founded in 1969 by still-CEO Neil Pappalardo.
– Epic = 38 years old, founded in 1979 as HRC by still-CEO Judy Faulkner.
– CPSI = 38 years old, founded 1979 by Denny Wilkins & Kenny Muscat.
– Cerner = “only” 37 years young, founded as PGI in 1980 by Neal & Co.
• Some fascinating ads & articles from October 1987 HIS rags:
– The leading clinical system vendor and CPOE pioneer TDS
withdraws from the lucrative DoD procurement process.
– The upcoming ASCP/CAP convention caused dozens of LIS
vendors to run ads and be profiled in feature articles.
– Creation of the HL7 standards for interfaces, defined by a
committee of HIS experts that first met in March of 1987.
– A number of fascinating vendor ads that show just how far
the IT industry has come (and gone) in these thirty years…
• Hope you enjoy jumping back to these early days of HIS-tory –
glad to share any of your memories or feedback:
Vince Ciotti HIS Professionals, LLC