SPOTLIGHT: Donald W. Kemper, Founder and CEO, Healthwise

Fallback Image    

About Don Kemper Donald W. Kemper, M.P.H., is founder and CEO of Healthwise, a not-for-profit organization offering consumer health information and decision tools that help people make better health decisions. Kemper is a passionate advocate for raising the quality of patient engagement in healthcare. By prescribing prevention, self-management and decision-support tools relevant to each person’s needs, clinicians can engage and motivate their patients to become active partners in their health and wellness. In 2002 Kemper co-authored “Information Therapy: Prescribed Information as a Reimbursable Medical Service.” The book presented the concept and the practicalities of how information prescriptions to each patient would become a core and expected part of healthcare, as is now required through the Meaningful Use rules for electronic medical records. More recently Kemper has championed the concept of “patient response” in which the patient’s use of and reply to information prescriptions are recorded in the clinical record. He has co-authored five medical self-care and health promotion handbooks that together have sold over 37 million copies. Kemper serves as a Board member for the National Quality Forum. The Foundation for Accountability named him a healthcare “visionary” for his dedication to responding to the needs of America’s patients. He has also been recognized by Advance for Health Information Executives as one of the top 25 most influential forces in healthcare IT. The Wall Street Journal named Healthwise one of 15 top small workplaces in America. Kemper holds master’s degrees in Health Systems Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley. About Healthwise Healthwise is a global provider of health information, decision support tools, behavior change assistance, and personal care planning for the top health plans, care management companies, hospitals, and consumer health portals. Each year, millions of people use our content and tools to manage their health, make better health decisions, and live healthier lives.   Medical Travel Today (MTT): How did you initially get involved with Healthwise? Don Kemper (DK): During the Vietnam era, I was given the opportunity to travel to Vietnam to work with the Army, or to go into the public health service. I decided to take a commission in the public health service. At that point, I had an engineering background, and I quickly learned that public health service was struggling. To help enhance healthcare among individuals, I tried to sell the idea of “…individuals learning to take better care of themselves” to the public health service, but had no success. As soon as I had completed my two-year service, I made it my mission to fully dive into the healthcare industry to help people make better health-related decisions. In 1975, we created Healthwise in Boise, Idaho, and have been operating here ever since. MTT: What are your thoughts on international and domestic medical travel? DK: I do know that the medical travel industry, both international and domestic, has been a fast growing phenomenon, and specifically for certain procedures, it is a very attractive option. I recently read a story that was published in the AARP Bulletin describing domestic medical travel and the role of major employers in this space. MTT: Major employers, such as Wal-Mart and Lowes, are beginning to adopt a medical travel benefit. In terms of your platform, how can you relate? DK: For 38 years, it has been our mission to help empower consumers to make better health decisions. Healthwise is a not-for-profit organization, and we pride ourselves on our drive to work towards the real mission, and not for proceeds. We accomplish our objective differently than others. We have 173 patient decision aids, which is approximately five times more than anybody else in the market – this is a core thing that we do. MTT: How do people find out about Healthwise? Is it a sponsor through their health plan or their employer? DK: We are not a direct consumer group, but 10 out of 10 of the largest health plans in the country license our products. We work with 11 different EMR companies that channel our information through their systems, and roughly 60 epic clients. We also have a counter in our lobby that estimates the number of times consumers turn to our information, and currently that number is around 1.35 billion. The last I saw, 15 percent of U.S. doctors are able to prescribe our information to patients. MTT: Can you see medical travel fitting into your platform? DK: Yes we can. I’m not sure that we would ever be in a position to evaluate one option over another, but we do think that the overall decision process, in terms of where and what kind of procedures to have done, is very core to what we do. The employees at Healthwise are very good at identifying the quality measures around certain procedures. We have been tagging our content to the national quality forums and quality measures to ensure that adequate patient information is delivered to further guarantee quality care. MTT: If an individual could receive more affordable, better quality care at a hospital outside of their health neighborhood, would that be something that your visitors might be interested in? DK: If I was advising someone in this situation, I would first have them consider the tradeoffs. Certainly cost is a big issue in these cases, and the cost difference between locations can be phenomenal. Also, family support is very important to think about. I would certainly consider a medical travel option personally, especially if I was able to visit a nice destination. MTT: Are you familiar with any incentives that different companies offer employees in a medical travel benefit, including the elimination of co-pays and deductibles, or paying for a companion to travel with the patient? DK: I am familiar with these incentives, but I am unaware of any specific details. From a business and personal standpoint, I believe the incentives are extremely smart simply because the cost differential between procedures is so vast. If a high quality provider overseas offers an attractive bundled payment cost, then employers are able to afford to have employees stay in a nice hotel, and send family along with the patient for support. MTT: Would your platform be the type of place where individuals could get information about medical travel? DK: Probably not. We mainly focus on what is the right thing to do to ensure good health — we are not so focused on where to do it. Wherever a patient decides to seek treatment, we want to make sure the care received is optimal. Depending upon who our clients are, we are more than happy to align with other information sources to better develop enhanced care. If another company were to develop a guide for the best medical travel option for a particular procedure, Healthwise could certainly electronically link that information with our information for our client. MTT: There are a lot of expatriates living around the world, which is an important touch point for hospitals. How do consumers make informed healthcare decisions when living in a third world country? DK: It is an obvious challenge to try and find the best care when living in, or traveling to, a foreign country. Personally, I would avoid any unnecessary treatments, and we know that there is a huge amount of that. Large companies such as Kaiser and Johns Hopkins, both clients of Healthwise, are great at marrying anything that is going to provide high quality, low cost delivery of care.

Leave a Reply