Top 100 Agencies: HealthEd Group

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HealthEd Group's work for Merck's Zioptan
HealthEd Group's work for Merck's Zioptan

Her stint as president of HealthEd from January 2012 to May 2013 (when she resumed her preferred role as EVP of strategy and innovation) felt a little like boot camp for Jill Balderson.

“We're stronger because of it, but it was very intense,” she says. “Our focus was on tightening our operation and on broadening and deepening our expertise in measurable patient engagement programs, particularly relating to healthcare extenders who are on the front lines of patient care.”

Several factors contributed to a drop in revenue from $21 million in 2011 to $18 million last year. ­Losing work on Amylin Pharmaceuticals' global diabetes franchise due to dissolution of a joint venture with Eli Lilly was tough, and other client-side budget cuts and suspensions throughout 2012 were challenging.

“Some brands stopped spending altogether or reduced budgets,” Balderson says. “That's pretty typical for an agency that focuses so primarily on patient initiatives because those spending levels are more cyclical than spending levels on HCP programs.”

Staff is down to 100 from 125 in 2011. There are plans to hire 15 to 20 this year.

Former chief strategy officer Mike Brzozowski left at the end of 2012. Carleen Kelly joined this year from CAHG as EVP, client engagement officer. Diana McNeff came aboard as COO this year (the position had been vacant since August 2011). Founder Roy Broadfoot is still at the helm as president and CEO.

HealthEd On Demand and Surround Health, both of which launched in 2011 and were incubated as separate business units, were folded into HealthEd's digital innovations group last year. HealthEd On Demand is a software platform that helps HCPs drive and manage patient support and education. Surround Health is an online learning community for HCPs.

“Surround Health has nearly 6,000 active members, and it's growing at about 250 per month,” Balderson says. “It's mature enough that it's driving research and insights for the entire company.”

The agency won some exciting new business last year, including AOR status for patient and nurse initiatives on the launch of Astellas/Medivation's prostate cancer treatment Xtandi. Other wins included patient side AOR status on Prometheus' IBD diagnostics tests, plus strategy and research work on Gilead's hepatitis C franchise and on Halozyme's Hylenex (recombinant hyaluronidase). Relationships also began with Covidien, Pamlab and a confidential large pharma company that engaged HealthEd to uncover patient insights in preparation for a blockbuster Rx-to-OTC switch.

Existing clients Genentech, Merck, Amgen and Eli Lilly all awarded new business last year as well.

This January HealthEd won in the Best Laboratory Summaries category of the ONC-sponsored challenge to redesign patient health records. The win got positive attention from prospective clients and employees.

Balderson notes the Affordable Health Care Act has created opportunities by accelerating the need to understand health IT and Meaningful Use requirements, which call for effective patient-engagement programs.

Six new clients have signed on this year—several of which Balderson says are making first forays into patient side communication. Revenue is expected to hold at about $18 million.
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