As the Austin-based 83bar celebrates its fifth birthday, CEO and founder Bob Baurys feels justified in tooting his own horn just a little bit. To that end, he characterizes his agency as “the only fully integrated patient-activation company” and one of the few currently in the business of “making the impossible possible.”

By way of example, he points to a recent assignment in which 83bar managed to complete a virtual clinical trial involving a colon cancer screening diagnostic and 1,400 patients in just over four months. “The time frame was deemed impossible by everybody else,” Baurys says. 

The 83bar team, consisting of 38 nurse operators and full-time staffers alike, was up to the task. “Our entire team came together and looked at ways to condense every piece of the process, from recruiting patients to collecting signatures to sending out and collecting diagnostic kits faster,” Baurys explains. 83bar’s nurse call center managed the trial, with enrollees bypassing physical research sites and using diagnostic kits.

It’s a process the agency plans to replicate. Since adding clinical trial enrollment services to its slate of offerings in early 2018, 83bar has grown rapidly.

In 2019, revenue spiked by 129% — to $8.7 million, up from $3.8 million in 2018. Head count nudged slightly upward, from 34 full-timers at the end of 2018 to 38 a year later. The firm secured six new assignments in 2019, adding organizations such as Spark Therapeutics, Geneoscopy, Cala Health, Axogen and Elligo Health Research to its roster.

When asked to characterize the way his organization operates, Baurys notes that 83bar isn’t just a patient-recruitment agency. It doesn’t simply find patients and hand them over to clients, he stresses. “That’s sort of the smallest part of our process,” he says.

In his mind, what differentiates 83bar from other agencies in the same space is its four-part patient-activation process. This involves locating prospective patients, educating them via the agency’s nurse call center, navigating them toward potential healthcare solutions, then helping them advocate on behalf of the treatment or product they’ve received. The program transforms patients from “interested” to “active” healthcare consumers; its underlying software tracks and collects data throughout the patient journey, contributing to a database of more than 850,000 patient engagements. 

To hear Baurys tell it, integration is key to the system’s speed and efficiency. There are many companies that focus on a single part of the process, but 83bar does it all, he says, giving it “the ability to track the entire continuum.” 

The addition of the clinical trial services offering came at the request of a commercial client, who suggested the agency’s process could be modified for use in the clinical trial realm. After the successful first go-round, Baurys expects the agency to shift its focus toward engineering virtual clinical trials.

By removing “all of the logistical friction from the equation,” Baurys believes 83bar can help drugs, devices and diagnostics come to market faster. “Healthcare has always just accepted being expensive and slow, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

The best marketing we saw in 2019

The brand campaign for AbbVie’s endometriosis drug Orilissa. The branded spots showcase language that women really use to speak about their pain. It’s raw and real. — Bob Baurys