According to founder and CEO Bob Baurys, Austin-based 83bar has always seen itself as an “anti-agency.”

The thinking behind this stems from the agency’s — or the anti-agency’s— dual focus on patient activation and managing the patient journey. “We do it for clinical trials and we do it for commercial work,” Baurys explains. “If somebody’s selling a surgical procedure or some sort of implant, we help them commercialize it.”

Before the pandemic hit, 83bar had been devoting considerable energy on engaging healthcare providers. However, when offices temporarily shut down and/or curbed access from outside personnel, sales reps had to rethink the way they go about their business. Even once offices started opening up again, reps were left to do a sizable percentage of their work remotely. 

83bar

83bar seized what it saw as a prime opportunity. “For the most part reps had zero access to physicians for months — and they still have very limited access,” Baurys explains. “But we were still talking to patients and still aggregating patient demand, and organizing it and sending it in to the doctors. So where we were once thought of as 10% to 20% of the solution, we became the main solution for a lot of the year.”

The pandemic also prompted 83bar to nearly double the size of its nurse call center, from 38 nurse operators to 72. “We were pretty much the only people who were talking to patients and helping them understand the current situation — what their options were, what they could expect, what they had to prepare for — in the new dynamic,” Baurys continues. “We spent an enormous amount of time on education and on helping patients understand the new paradigm.” 

In essence, the nurse operators functioned as patient advocates, guiding them through confusion and connecting them with HCPs. At its 2020 peak, the call center handled between 25,000 and 30,000 prospective patients per month, lending a hand in clinical trial recruitment and enrollment adherence.

The nurse call center helped drive 83bar’s revenue from $8.7 million in 2019 to $11.4 million in 2020, a 31% jump. The agency counts Myriad Genetics, EndoGastric Solutions and Medtronic among its client mainstays. To manage the growth, 83bar hired its first chief revenue officer, bringing in former Diversity Accords CEO Eric Marr and charging him with oversight of the firm’s sales and marketing efforts.

Baurys expects 83bar to continue to grow during the second half of the year and beyond, predicting that it will double in size. At the same time, he doesn’t believe that the agency will bend under the weight of its ambitions.

In fact, Baurys believes keeping customers happy is relatively easy, because the agency has always been willing to invest in itself.

“We call it a pressure test,” he explains. “We fast-track, build a mini-model and go to the marketplace. Then, within 10 days have a very high likelihood of whether an engagement will be a success.”

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The idea I wish I had…

The RAREis campaign by Horizon Therapeutics. Its goal is to tell the stories of individuals and what their disease means to them, and in the process raise awareness of rare diseases by sharing accomplishments, hopes, fears and dreams. One especially unique piece of the program is the #RAREis Playlist, songs that elevate the stories of children with rare diseases. — Mark Stinson, VP, brand management