Pri-Med's parent buys patient-, physician-education co.

M|C Communications is extending its Pri-Med medical meetings and CME franchise to waiting rooms, a move it says will let sponsors synchronize media planning between physicians and patients. The Boston-based company bought Physicians Weekly, a privately held provider of educational materials to doctors and patients. Terms of the deal, announced today, were not disclosed. Physicians Weekly’s clinical education wall boards hang in more than 1,500 U.S. hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins. The company, started in 1983, says its Physicians Weekly publication is read offline and online by more than 250,000 doctors. The poster is free to hospitals, supported by ads. The company also offers Patient Education Centers (PEC), a service launched in 2004 providing direct-to-patient communications on different disease states via a medical news poster, brochures and other materials mounted on a wall fixture in patient waiting rooms. The free displays, also ad supported, appear in 2,000 practices and primarily serve primary care doctors. The acquisition marks the first for Pri-Med, which estimates it educates more than 100,000 physicians a year through its live medical meetings -- produced in 70 markets -- and additional clinicians through a Web-based offering, Pri-Med Online. Six large conferences are produced in conjunction with Harvard Medical School. The firm hopes to leverage its presence in the live CME space to make practices aware of PEC and get them to adopt it for their waiting rooms. “Our goal is to get in 10,000 practices, which would cover about 85% of US practicing physicians, in the next 24 months,” said John Mooney, M|C Communications chief executive, in an interview. Mooney said the acquisition offers a complementary distribution channel to allow sponsors to develop integrated media plans that covere disease education to patients and physicians. Accredited physician education and non-accredited patient education will be kept separate, in keeping with compliance standards. Readership of PW, the physician-oriented publication, is 80% primary care, said Peter Sprague, Physicians Weekly chief executive, and the firm has launched weekly editions targeting a variety of specialties, including oncology, psychology and surgery. “Many hospitals have cut back on their internal education activities,” Sprague said. PW “could be a very interesting substitute for the physical grand rounds process.” Developing "a more cohesive CME strategy through standalone CME boards" is an added value of the purchase, Mooney said, but, “We loved the deal on the patient-education side first.” The patient-targeted service’s national presence was enhanced by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). MGMA, the national association representing medical practice administrators, co-developed the service and provides the fixtures to members’ practices. PEC also supplies “information therapy” prescription pads that doctors can use to direct patients to the PEC Web site, which features disease-state content. Practices can link their Web sites to the portal. Mooney said M|C considered building its own patient content provider but concluded an acquisition would accelerate growth. “We think PEC's product is the best in class in the waiting-room environment,” he said. “To replicate the real estate they own in practices would be almost cost-prohibitive to anyone else trying to get into the space.”