It all began with two medics and a critical care nurse. As a paramedic with the Washington County Fire District 1 in the early 80’s, Paul LeSage packed his pockets with index cards. He used them to jot down medications, dosages, and other critical information that could be tough to recall in an emergency situation. “You’ve only got a couple of seconds to get it right,” he says, “You can’t afford to be guessing.”
LeSage looked around for a professional guide, but wasn’t satisfied with anything he found—so he decided to create his own. He teamed up with friend and colleague Paula Derr, who was employed as a critical care nurse at St. Vincent Hospital and Medical Center in Portland, Oregon. Together, they came up with the blueprint for an EMS field guide which contained local protocols, ACLS algorithms, and pediatric dosages, all information they needed on the job every day.
With limited resources, they knew they’d have to use the materials they had access to. Derr got permission from St. Vincent Hospital to use their old printing press, and the guide was printed in black and white on heavy cardboard, which they laminated. LeSage and Derr began giving the guide to their colleagues.
Around the same time, Jon Tardiff was working as a paramedic in Portland, Oregon. Like LeSage, Tardiff had been carrying around a booklet he’d made filled with lists of common prescription medications that he referred to during EMS calls.
Medics, Nurse Team up to Create the Original EMS Field Guide™
In 1986, the three friends got together in LeSage’s Lake Oswego home, and over the dining room table, the plan for Informed Publishing came together. They didn’t bother to write a business plan because, LeSage says, “our market research was our peers—we were the market.” They combined the two systems they’d been using, bought an old Kroy lettering machine, and published the first 19-page edition out of LeSage’s home.
At first, they printed small batches of the guide for their colleagues. Tardiff remembers losing 25 cents on each guide they sold because, he says, “we didn’t care about making money. We made them because our friends all wanted them.”
Soon the three founders realized they had created a product that could be useful to medics all over the country. They took out a single ad in a trade magazine that resulted in 300 orders, and they had an instant hit on their hands. “We realized this is not just a niche market in Oregon,” LeSage said. “This is a niche market all over.”
Making of the Industry Standard
In the beginning, all production was done out of their homes, and the orders and shipping took place out of an office in Tigard, Oregon. LeSage ran the finances, Tardiff designed the guides and bought the advertisements, and Derr made sure the company’s dealers were happy. As they started actively marketing the company, the Informed name settled into its niche, and the first guide, originally known as the EMS Field Guide™ quickly became the industry standard.
By the mid-90’s, Informed had expanded with four additional guides for other providers: EMS for BLS, firefighters, nurses, and police officers. As times and technology advanced, Informed advanced with it. A website was developed in the late 90’s, and they partnered with a software company to convert the guides for the Palm devices that EMTs and care providers were using.
From the very beginning, incorporating customer feedback has been at the core of Informed’s philosophy. Since that first guide created for their colleagues, LeSage, Derr and Tardiff depended on the feedback and support of their customers to keep the guides accurate, current, and useful. As they grew, it became a company practice to incorporate recommendations from vendors and customers. “We’ve listened, and we’ve produced,” says Derr. “That’s always been the answer.”
An “Accidental” Company
Throughout Informed’s growth, the three founders managed to balance their commitment to the company with holding down full-time medical jobs. Derr was clinical manager of the LifeFlight Network, and today she works in Quality/Risk Management at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, where she has worked for over 30 years. Tardiff, who has been a paramedic since 1975, continues to work with Tillamook Hospital Ambulance. And with over 25 years of experience as a firefighter, paramedic, and flight paramedic, LeSage is the Assistant Chief for Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.
In 2004, the founders decided to sell the company in order to maximize its potential. “It’s lucrative, but it’s an accidental company,” LeSage says. “My passion is with the fire department.”
A New CEO and a New Chapter
They found an eager buyer in Chris Barnes of Marin County, California, now CEO of Informed. Barnes spent the 90s working as a sales rep and then as an owner of George Lithograph. During that time, he worked closely with Cisco to develop a global print solution at a time when Cisco Systems grew from approximately $500 million to over $20 billion in sales. Through this experience, Barnes came to value partnership and collaboration, qualities that he feels have direct application at Informed.
While maintaining and nurturing its core base of industry professionals, Barnes’ goal is to broaden Informed’s reach into the consumer market, and into digital media. “Ultimately, we’re a content provider,” he says, “and to meet the needs of our customers we’ll provide whichever medium that serves them best.”
Informed Publishing Today
Today, Informed’s ever-growing print product line includes field guides for EMS, fire and rescue, critical care, nursing, physicians, pediatric care, law enforcement and corrections professionals, homeland security personnel, a consumer home emergency guide, and a Pet Emergency Pocket Guide™ designed for both working animals in the field and household pets. Since 2010, Informed Publishing has brought their guides to the iTunes Store, the Android Marketplace, the Amazon Appstore for Android, and Nook Color.
At the core of the company is a dedication to the idea Informed was founded on over 25 years ago: customer feedback and recommendations are welcome and incorporated in a continual quest for product improvement. With a long professional heritage of providing quality products, Informed’s field guides are now considered the industry’s gold standard.