It seems as though every company has a garage origin story. KLAS has more of a kitchen-table story, but I’m still grateful to have been a part of it.
The idea for KLAS began in 1996. Three of the four founders worked at Sunquest, which was preparing to go public at the time. As preparations progressed, proposals were made to deflate Sunquest’s industry-leading support infrastructure into a mid-tier model. The resulting cut to expenses would supposedly ensure that the IPO would be a beautiful launch.
Having sold lab systems to many of Sunquest’s customers, Kent Gale, Leonard Black, and Scott Holbrook were frustrated at the impact this plan would have on their provider friends to whom they’d promised top-tier support.
The three men sat down on the steps of the city hall building in Tucson, contemplating why there was no transparent measurement of the industry they worked in. Healthcare needed someone who would highlight when vendors made conscious decisions that conflicted with keeping client commitments.
As a launching point, my father, Kent Gale, quit his job at Sunquest to try his hand at driving this idea forward. There would soon be four men working from home and keeping the industry honest by shining a light on true vendor performance. I was honored to be the fourth man.
Our group needed a name. By playing with the first letters of the founders’ names, Kent landed on “KLAS” (Kent, Leonard, Adam, Scott). The title inspired a great marketing tagline: “Come to KLAS to be educated on vendor performance.” It also served well for recognizing great companies with “Best in KLAS” awards. The name “KLAS” stuck, and it now represents the four men who either triggered the idea of the company or jumped in to make it a reality.
The first evaluation of a vendor was 180 questions long and was completed by Bob Blades, then the CIO at Loma Linda University Medical Center, in April of 1997. His only comment as he faxed back his responses was, “This is boring.”
We’ve taken Bob’s advice to heart and worked our way down to a concise, 20-question evaluation.
Bob’s survey was the first of hundreds of thousands to come from KLAS’ provider partners around the world over 20 years. Once we at KLAS understood the amount of work that would be required to not only gather research, but to gather enough research to track trends in the industry, we committed to making it happen.
I recall collating the initial reports and binding them together by hand around our kitchen table in Tucson. In 1998, we moved to the spare room of a two-bedroom college apartment in Provo, Utah. From there we moved to the basement of my first home, and finally into the now-vacated WordPerfect buildings.
KLAS stands as the realization of the idea that honest, accurate, and impartial data on vendor performance can change healthcare for the better. What was originally a small group of professionals gathering performance research has turned into a dedicated and passionate staff of nearly 150 measuring worldwide industry performance from Orem, Utah. Not bad for four guys at a kitchen table!