Iomedia 2016

There aren't too many agencies that can hit the health-tech highs that Iomedia does on a regular basis.

That's hardly a knock on other companies, though, so much as it is an acknowledgment of Iomedia's facility within the digital ecosystem. Whereas most other firms have grafted digital atop an existing slate of health and pharma offerings, Iomedia has been digital since day one — and in a way that very few agencies that claim to have digital in their DNA actually are.

In fact, you've probably used an Iomedia creation without knowing it: The company's “virtual venue” seating charts are now used by more than 100 sports teams and/or leagues, with music venues and theaters about to be added to the slate. But for the purposes of this particular venue — that'd be the MM&M Agency Issue — Iomedia's groundbreaking work on apps that afford smarter chronicling, sharing, and stockpiling of patient-­reported outcomes has rendered it one of pharma's go-to digital partners.

Iomedia MD Marc Porter downplays the agency's recent slate of innovation. “We're not doing much. We just kind of hang out, you know?” he deadpans. At the same time, the success of the app it devised for Janssen Biotech — Gut Check, which makes it easier for IBD patients to track symptoms, monitor treatment progress, and even locate nearby bathrooms — has provided a compelling blueprint for the industry going forward.

The underlying need for an app like Gut Check isn't exactly a state secret: In the pay-for-performance era, physicians need more information than what patients typically provide during a five-minute consult. “Patients aren't going to be able to remember everything that they've experienced during the past few weeks and recite it back when the doctor asks. It's a little unfair even to expect that,” Porter explains. “What we're trying to capture is a longer-term view across efficacy and safety. Patients should be able to compare themselves to local, regional, and national normatives for their conditions. Doctors want to be able to do that as well.”

Fueled by the success of Gut Check — it's already the most-downloaded app of its kind — Iomedia is building a second one for MS patients. At least two more therapeutic categories will follow before the year is out; the agency hopes to have as many as eight of the top ten categories covered by this time next year.

For obvious reasons, Porter hopes that Janssen's experience with Gut Check will inspire other companies to move forward with similar programs. He worries, however, that the industry's traditional hesitation to embrace new technology will slow uptake of such endeavors.

“Nobody has more data than pharma, but arguably [no other industry] has done less with that data,” Porter says. “The reality is that companies still need a little push.”

When those companies are ready, Iomedia will prove an able and willing partner — and one that, despite its bold ambition to revitalize the flow of patient-reported information, will remain a sane place to work. Despite the Gut Check breakthrough, the firm didn't increase headcount in 2015 (175) and remained in the same general revenue range (an MM&M-estimated $38 million, up from an estimated $35 million in 2014).

“We're probably the only company with a 40-hour workweek in healthcare promotion and advertising,” Porter says. “We'd like to keep it that way.”