A majority of the 57 firms documenting their 2012 healthcare practice fees to O’Dwyer’s showed growth, according to rankings released today. 

Double-digit gainers included W2O, Dodge, PCI, Rasky Baerlein, Finn Partners, JPCB, Allison, RF|Binder, Zeno and S&S. CEOs and heads of healthcare practices cited growth among existing clients as well as the addition of business.

New technologies and the use of social media for monitoring and publicity purposes was also cited. Prevention and treatment of diseases continued to be uppermost in the minds of Americans. Concern over costs was also at a peak as the Affordable Care Act started to kick in.

RF|Binder Partners, New York, refers to its "healthcare and wellness" practice and said it had dramatic growth in 2012.

Jim Weiss, chairman and CEO of W2O Group, which grew 21.3% to $56.6 million, said "Economic, political and regulatory uncertainties have forced the healthcare industry to connect with stakeholders in new ways."

Said Weiss: "The empowered, engaged and better-informed patient along with the advancement of health technology have continued to be trends in the industry. Social media and digital have continued to play a significant role and our early investment in analytics and digital has places us in a leading position.

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"We guide our clients to identify the online influencers, understand what is the right content to create for optimal engagement and how best to measure results.

W2O Has 200+ Healthcare Specialists

Weiss said the firm has more than 200 healthcare specialists and over 20 languages spoken amongst its staff ranks has given the firm a competitive edge.

"This analytics and integrated approach and global team of strong client counselors have helped us to continue to leapfrog forward in this evolving and complex healthcare communications landscape,” he said.

Weiss said W2O experienced a dramatic increase in visibility with new clients (adding more than a dozen to its roster in 2012) and diversification into new brands and areas (representing upwards of 15 new brands/franchises/units) compared to the previous year.

Dodge Up 52.9% to $5.5M

Brad Dodge, president and CEO of Dodge Communications, Alpharetta, Ga., which grew 52.9% in fees to $5.5M, said the firm has always focused exclusively on helping technology and services vendors sell their wares to hospitals, health systems, physician practices, payers, consumers and other vendors.

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"This industry segment has grown consistently over the years because it has lagged behind other industries in its degree of automation," he said. "Now, with ObamaCare's Affordable Care Act and HITECH Act, there is an even greater emphasis on using technology to improve the care delivery and health to the world population. From electronic health records, to population health management systems, to revenue cycle management, hundreds of vendors -- from startups to global concerns -- are bringing new and innovative technologies to the market."

Dodge noted all of those companies need a partner to help them get noticed. "We have worked with more than 150 of these firms, and currently have more than 40 as active clients," he said, noting DC is a full service, 50-employee firm that includes inhouse PR copywriting, design and digital.

JPC&H Grew 27% to $4.8M

David Jarrard, partner of Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, Brentwood, Tenn., specialist in healthcare, said "It's hard to overstate the dramatic transformation underway within the U.S. hospital industry. It's explosive."

Jarrard said the role of hospitals, physicians and other providers of healthcare -- a multi-trillion-dollar industry -- is being redefined before our eyes. "Our firm is built for this," he said. "We help healthcare leaders who are taking their organizations through times of extraordinary change. It's our specialty."

Jarrard cited the firm's "unusual blend" of professionals -- from healthcare marketing, journalism and government -- as reflective of the healthcare PR needs of leaders in this moment. He also said JPC&H benefits from being a boutique firm.

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David Jarrard, Kevin Phillips, Molly Cate
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"In moments of crisis or disruption, leaders want communications partners who need no learning curve, who can bring relevant experience and best practices quickly to the table," he said. As an example, he said last year the firms consulted on $15B in announced hospital mergers and acquisitions due, in part, because of its rich history in the specific niche of healthcare M&A.

"After all, what's happening in the industry is by definition well outside the experience of most hospital and physician leaders," he said. "Our experience helps them during this period of disruption."

Piovano Cites 80% Win Rate in Pitches

Dorothy Pirovano, CEO of Public Communications Inc., Chicago, said that more than 90% of its new business inquiries come from referrals and that the firm wins more than 80% of pitches made. Healthcare revenues grew 44.5% to $4.18M.

Said Pirovano: "Our success in 2012 is a testament to the solid reputation we've built over 35 years in healthcare and being able to prove that what we do translates into measurable results."

PCI's reputation brought it the Walgreens Complex Therapies business, now in its second year, and has led to the expansion of medical/health association accounts, she said. PCI represents 25 professional associations and is often recommended by them when other associations seeks PR help.

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Layoffs were avoided during the recession on the belief that business would again grow, a belief that was justified, said Pirovano. "We wanted our very smart, experienced staff in place when the economy turned up again. With the right people ready to work, this led to programs being further expanded and a very successful year. The momentum is continuing in 2013."

Finn Spurted 50% to $3.1M

Finn Partners, which saw its healthcare practice grow 50.2% to $3.1M, said the firm's focus has been on healthcare services such as hospitals and providers and on helping organizations that need policy guidance and strategy.

Miriam Miller, healthcare head, said fundamental changes are sweeping the healthcare industry and are driving the increase in PR services. The impact on individual companies and organizations is significant, she said. PR firms are needed that understand the new landscape and can help companies successfully navigate it.

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"This combination of competencies is our key strength," said Miller. "Finn Partners Health also has a number of biotechnology, medical device and diagnostic companies as clients. The focus here is on a combined public and financial communication offering that is critical among this constituency."

J&J, Other Clients Expanded at RF|Binder

Amy Binder, CEO of RF|Binder, said the firm’s 35.3% growth to $2.3M in healthcare and wellness was driven by the expansion of work with Johnson & Johnson and other accounts. These include Eli Lilly and Co., Ranbaxy Laboratories, and topical healthcare brands, BAND-AID Brand Adhesive Bandages, and NEOSPORIN. Additional assignments came from Ranbaxy.

Said Binder: "We have helped to establish many of the world’s most recognizable, household brands by providing consumers with the information and resources needed to manage their lives."

Binder said growing consumer and media focus on healthy living spurs the firm to help clients understand the drivers of consumer decision-making, especially that of the so-called "empowered citizen patient."

Zeno’s Health Revenues Soared 61%

Ame Wadler, manager director of Zeno Group Health, said its 61% growth in 2012 came from new client wins and existing clients. Many different types of products are handled, from over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals to medical and surgical devices and prescription biopharmaceutical products.

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"We also work with provider organizations including one of the fastest-growing pharmacy benefit management organizations and professional associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics," said Wadler.

New projects expanded the work being performed for Bausch+Lomb, AstraZeneca and K2M, she said. New clients included Allergan, American Academy of Pediatrics, Merck, Metagenics and Visalus.

Wadler credited Zeno Health’s 360-degree approach to stakeholder engagement, which leverages a “convergence” of social and traditional channels. She added: "We have seen a marked increased in our clients’ commitment to the development of branded, owned content."