50 Years of MEDITECH with CEO Howard Messing

One of the things we’ve grown to love here at Healthcare IT Today is being able to share the stories of health IT companies and people that have a prominent role in our industry.

As we’ve done more and more interviews with Founders, CEOs, and company leaders, I’ve come to realize how important it is for health IT professionals to understand the DNA of the organizations they partner with. Looking at how a company was started and how it got to where it is today will tell you a lot about what you can expect from the company and where it’s likely headed in the future.

This was particularly true in a recent two-part extended interview I did with Howard Messing, President and CEO of MEDITECH. As part of MEDITECH’s 50th year celebration, they agreed to have Messing sit down with me and look back at some of the important inflection points in MEDITECH’s history. Although he isn’t the founder of MEDITECH, he has been with the company for 44 years and the vast majority of those years in a prominent leadership role.

In the first part of this interview with Messing, we cover a broad range of topics including a look at the history of MEDITECH’s EHR software and why MEDITECH has chosen to create a new EHR every decade or so. He talks about what it was like being a successful tech company during the 60s in Boston and the experience introducing EHR systems and other technology to healthcare. We also talk about a number of MEDITECH decisions to never sunset a platform and almost never acquire another company. Messing also shares what it was like to experience rapid growth with implementations like HCA and MEDITECH eventually being used in all 50 states.

In the 2nd part of this interview, Messing talks about meaningful use and other healthcare regulations and their impact on MEDITECH and their customers. Then, we dive into MEDITECH’s international expansion including successes in Canada and Africa and where else MEDITECH is seeing opportunities internationally. Messing also shares some perspectives on MEDITECH’s approach to marketing and the value of having a number of women on the senior leadership team. Then, we talk about the company’s latest product – Expanse – including their cloud efforts and the new Greenfield API. Finally, I ask Messing what MEDITECH hasn’t accomplished that he still wants to accomplish and what the future looks like for Messing and MEDITECH.

If you’re interested in learning more about MEDITECH, the company, the culture, and the history, then you’ll enjoy this two-part interview with Howard Messing, President and CEO of MEDITECH. Watch the full interviews embedded below or scroll down to the list of topics we discuss and click on the time link to skip to that topic.

The Early Years – 50 Years of MEDITECH with Howard Messing – Part 1

  • How does that feel looking back on 50 years of MEDITECH? [0:34]
  • Give us some context for how revolutionary Neil Pappalardo and Curt W. Marble was in 1964 when they first developed MUMPS. [1:43]
  • Was develop everything (including your phone system and email) the culture of the era? [3:45]
  • How did adoption of MEDITECH’s original lab product go back in the 70s? How did users react? [6:34]
  • How did it spread to other departments and what were those departments reactions when you were working in the lab? [7:57]
  • How many hospitals did it spread to? How did people hear about MEDITECH? [10:59]
  • One of the interesting things about MEDITECH is the culture of promoting from within the company. Was this a really early decision by the company? What was the rationale? [13:06]
  • How big of a step forward was MAGIC when it was introduced in 1979? [15:44]
  • You’ve chosen to never sunset a platform (for example, MAGIC is still running in hospitals today, 40 years later). Why did you make that choice? [17:05]
  • What was customers’ reception to MAGIC? Was switching as hard then as today? [19:46]
  • What prompted your first customer-initiated user meeting was in 1984 and how different was it from user events today? [21:18]
  • What was it like being a tech company in the 70s and 80s? [23:23]
  • Tell us about some of MEDITECH’s experience acquiring real estate in Boston. Did you acquire a racetrack? [25:14]
  • Is the expectation going forward for MEDITECH to remain private? [27:40]
  • What went into the decision to start working on Client/Server Release in the 90s? [29:09]
  • Was it a tough transition for clients to go from dumb terminals to desktop computers? [30:47]
  • What were the biggest challenges you faced as the company grew and how did you deal with them? [34:21]
  • Was this ever a tempting thing to do an acquisition or was it just never part of the culture? [38:39]
  • In the early 1990s, you signed a contract with HCA (at the time known as Columbia) and rapidly deployed MEDITECH to their facilities in the US and abroad. How did you manage that level of growth at that time? [41:19]
  • In 2009 when Hilo Medical Center became a customer, it marked your presence in all 50 US states. How does it feel to have had this success? [44:11]
  • Are there any big things you would have done differently? [45:41]
  • What are you most proud of accomplishing in this part of MEDITECH’s life as a company? [48:10]

MEDITECH Expanse, International Expansion, and Government Regulation – 50 Years of MEDITECH with Howard Messing

  • Meaningful Use changed the EHR market — $36 billion of government stimulus money does that. What was MEDITECH’s reaction to this infusion of EHR stimulus money? [0:18]
  • What would you like to see from regulators? Is it more freedom from regulation? [3:21]
  • Was international expansion a specific goal and effort or did it just start naturally? [6:23]
  • MEDITECH has 47% of the Canadian market. What made you so successful in Canada? [7:30]
  • Was there something special about MEDITECH that made it work great in South Africa also? [8:38]
  • Was your implementation in Botswana similar to South Africa? You implemented the whole country, right? [10:17]
  • Where do you see promise for MEDITECH internationally? [12:36]
  • Why didn’t you do as much PR and marketing before and why now? [15:30]
  • Much of your senior leadership team and faces of the organization are females (Helen Waters, Hoda Sayed-Friel, Michelle O’Connor). Was this intentional and what’s been the value of having women as part of that team? [18:34]
  • Let’s talk Expanse. Why go back to the drawing board and create an EHR from scratch? What have you been able to do with Expanse that you couldn’t do with the other platforms? [21:06]
  • Expanse seems like MEDITECH embracing the cloud. Would you agree with this and what’s your take on the cloud and MEDITECH’s approach to cloud? [26:05]
  • What’s your vision for MEDITECH’s Greenfield API? [28:56]
  • How open are you going to be comfortable opening up MEDITECH?[31:29]
  • Where does MEDITECH’s focus on their customer’s sustainability come from? Has that always been a focus? [33:58]
  • What hasn’t MEDITECH accomplished that you still want to accomplish? [36:14]
  • If you could say one thing to the industry, what would it be? [38:07]
  • What’s the future for Howard? What’s the transition beyond Howard? [40:33]
  • Any final thoughts? [42:24]

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.