Boise’s Healthwise merges with Boston organization

The nonprofits expect a deal to close in about six weeks.

adutton@idahostatesman.comFebruary 20, 2014 

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Healthwise software test engineers Molly Mouser, right, and Jack Doolittle, second from right, test software integration Wednesday at the company's Bogus Basin Road headquarters with software test engineer Shelley Houseley, left, and software engineer Erik Lawrence, second from left.

KYLE GREEN — kgreen@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

Donald Kemper likens an upcoming merger to the Plymouth Colony.

“We said to their board, ‘Let’s do a compact,’ ” said Kemper, CEO and founder of Healthwise, a Boise health information nonprofit that started in 1975.

Healthwise had begun talks last spring with a Boston firm, Informed Medical Decisions Foundation. Kemper started Healthwise in 1975 to help people make health decisions, starting with a binder of information for mothers. Now, through various outlets, people use Healthwise information about 180,000 times per month, he said.

The foundation began in 1989 with a focus on giving patients a stronger voice in their medical treatment, in part by making sure they have enough information to make decisions. Dr. Michael J. Barry, president of the foundation, explained that his organization could, for example, help a breast cancer patient choose between two treatment options — a lumpectomy with radiation, or a mastectomy — based on the pros and cons of each option.

The two nonprofits wanted to combine their strengths and pool their resources.

Of Healthwise, Barry said, “They really have a long track record of talking to people in plain language about what they should expect in health care.”

Talks between the organizations accelerated in September. “When our boards got together, they sat down for two hours and worked on a compact,” Kemper said.

The groups agreed that Healthwise’s first-ever merger would essentially bring the foundation under Healthwise’s umbrella but leave the foundation’s name unchanged and retain its 31 employees in Boston. Some staffers in Boston will work remotely with Healthwise in Boise. All Healthwise employees will be kept, too, the organizations said.

The boards of directors for both nonprofits will be combined, with five members from Informed Medical Decisions Foundation and seven from Healthwise.

No money is changing hands in the deal, leaders said.

Kemper said Healthwise has been approached before. “We’ve had a few jets come into Boise wanting to move us from nonprofit to for-profit,” he said.

The merger with the foundation is different, because both organizations have similar “passion for getting the most accurate information to the patient,” he said.

“They’re giving us this incredible insight into medical evidence,” Kemper said. “We’re giving them incredible reach into so many millions of people’s lives.”

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, Twitter: @IDS_Audrey

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