Numbers speak volumes about Kristin Cahill’s contributions to GCI Health. Her role in GCI’s new business win rate (80%), low staff turnover (less than 5%), exceptional client growth (25% in 2017), and overall operational excellence can’t be overestimated.
Cahill’s unique new business approach, which focuses on treating patients as people and telling multidimensional stories, led to 30 wins last year and the hiring of 50 employees. It has also transformed the agency from a boutique healthcare shop to a midsize, highly respected, fully-integrated agency representing the top healthcare companies in the world.
Colleagues praise her ability to translate complex scientific content for consumers, address pricing in highly competitive markets, win over the most skeptical marketing teams on the value of PR, and break through with high-profile consumer campaigns in crowded spaces.
Cahill has earned a strong track record for developing groundbreaking campaigns that support best-in-class pharmaceutical products and redefining corporate communications for leading healthcare companies. Her scorecard is full of high-profile, award-winning educational efforts, including: Rewrite Your Day, which recreated special moments missed by 15 chronic migraine patients to elevate the severity of the condition; Step On Up, which activated blacks and Hispanics with diabetic nerve pain to speak to their doctors; Reimagine MySelf, which inspired people living with multiple sclerosis to rethink what is possible with Tecfidera; and a fibromyalgia Fibrocenter Facebook page, which provided a much-needed resource to a community that experiences significant stigma.
The contribution Cahill makes to the industry through teaching and mentoring younger PR professionals on her team is just as important to her agency. Colleagues say she is “dedicated to helping the next generation of communications professionals” and “goes out of her way to nurture their emerging skills.” This has led to a turnover rate of less than 3%, well under the industry average.
– Cahill works closely with WPP Health & Wellness across multiple opportunities and is frequently tapped to serve as the PR lead on cross-functional efforts.
– She helped spearhead the GCI Health all-staff initiative, Let’s Do Something Different, which facilitates volunteer opportunities for employees to support charities.
– She was named to the Board of Directors for HealthyWomen, the nation’s leading independent, nonprofit health information source for women.
GCI Health, HealthyWomen, and Redbook magazine are using survey insights to inform the HealthiHer movement.
Nearly half of women don’t take the time to focus on their own health, according to a survey from GCI Health, HealthyWomen, and Redbook magazine.
The survey results are being used to inform the HealthiHer movement, which aims to help women take more control of their health.
The survey and partnership between GCI Health, HealthyWomen, and Redbook, which began in October, polled more than 1,000 women ages 30 to 60 about health habits for themselves and their families. Now that the three partners have the survey results, they launched the larger HealthiHer movement, which includes a social component, health content for women, and outreach to employers about employee health.
While women make most of the healthcare decisions for their families, the HealthiHer survey showed that doesn’t necessarily translate to taking care of their own health. Two-thirds of women reported they only feel “somewhat in control” of their health.
“This is phase one,” said Wendy Lund, CEO of GCI Health. “Next month, which is women’s health month, we’re putting out a lot of content. We’re also working on challenging industry leaders to help make impact with us and join us.”
She explained that the target is not only women who work in PR, but also other industries where there are large proportions of women, such as nursing and teaching industries.
The survey found that of the women who are not getting regular check-ups, 77% cited job scheduling issues. This finding spurred GCI Health, HealthyWomen, and Redbook to do outreach to employers and encourage them to make sure their employees, both women and men, are taking the time to get preventive screenings and schedule doctor appointments.
The online part of the HealthiHer movement encourages women to share their moments of self-care on social media with #BeHealthiHer.
“We created #BeHealthiHer because we want to make sure we’re going as broad as we humanly can to help women on social media capture those moments where they’re embracing self-care,” Lund said. “Showing women helping women is the most effective way.”
The focus on self-care stemmed from the finding that 90% of women reported “moderate to high” stress levels, and 40% are diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
Lund said GCI Health is practicing what they preach and will be encouraging employees to make time for check-ups. Some of the survey results are also going to inform future client work within GCI Health, Lund said.
“As marketers and PR people, we still have some work to do in terms of making sure we’re communicating and educating women the right way about how to manage their wellness and health,” Lund said.
Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. There are many standard challenges that face every business whether they are large or small. It is not easy running a company, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world. Technology advances, new hiring strategies, and now, political changes coming with the new administration, all add to the existing business challenges that entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives have to deal with.
Maximizing profits, minimizing expenses and finding talented staff to keep things moving seem to be top challenges for both SMBs and large corporations. We have been interviewing companies from around the world to discover what challenges they are facing in their businesses. We also asked each company to share business advice they would give to a younger version of themselves.
Below is our interview with Wendy Lund, CEO at GCI Health:
What does your company do?
GCI Health is a full-service specialty healthcare communications company that works with a wide variety of healthcare companies to create programs that raise awareness about various health conditions and treatments. We also help companies raise their corporate visibility and become viewed as leaders in their space. We offer our clients innovative, creative and breakthrough programming that reaches their target audiences across print, broadcast, online and social media channels. We pride ourselves on being able to empower patients and make an impact on healthcare around the world. The agency is headquartered in New York and London, with offices throughout the U.S. and Europe.
What is your role? What do you enjoy most about your role?
I joined GCI Health as Chief Executive Officer in 2010. What I truly enjoy is the diversity and depth of the work we do, collectively, to educate people about their health and help our clients succeed in meeting their business goals. I am inspired and passionate about playing an integral part on communicating healthcare advances and bringing hope to patients in need. Just as important, I am committed to creating an agency that fosters a company culture based on collaboration and encouraging staff, from the most senior executives to those just starting out in their careers, to be creative, to think differently and dream bigger.
What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?
Over the last few years, we have grown significantly – both in terms of clients and staff – and to manage this growth, retaining and recruiting excellent talent has been a big challenge. It’s important that we find employees who excel in the healthcare field. Fortunately, we have been able to achieve a high level of retention through motivating, hands-on and fun engagement programs, as well as recruit a steady stream of sought-after talent based on our reputation in the industry for being a fantastic place to work. Our supportive work environment shines through at every step of the interview process, and we stress to potential candidates and everyone who works here that we believe in a company culture that promotes continuous learning, professional growth and a healthy work-life balance.
If you could go back in time, what business advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
Be confident, be bold, be present. In our industry, we all have the requisite skills to succeed. But what makes individuals truly excel and stand apart is how they use these skills. Don’t be afraid to speak up and speak your mind. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. What’s most important is that you show your managers, your colleagues and your clients that you understand your business and theirs, and that you’re always thinking about how to help them succeed.
In the years to come, science will continue to evolve, medicines will come to market that improve and, in increasing instances, even save the lives of many people.
Biopharmaceutical companies and their research partners are pursuing, discovering and developing therapies for some of the most intractable medical conditions including aggressive cancers, rare genetic diseases and progressive neurological and autoimmune disorders, among others. In many respects, they’re making strides at a faster pace than ever before and achieving outcomes previously not thought possible.
Parallel to this progress is another reality: drugs coming to market at increasingly high prices, some with price tags of several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
While drug pricing has long been a topic of debate, acrimony and concern, the emergence of a new generation of highly effective and tolerable therapies for hepatitis C a few years ago accentuated the issue and stimulated conversation about the public health burden and pharmaceutical costs associated with diseases like Hep C and cancer.
More recently, dramatic advances in a variety of rare diseases has resulted in a significant uptick in scrutiny and criticism of drug manufacturers and calls to dismantle the Orphan Drug Act, legislation that provides incentives to companies developing drugs for rare diseases.
The emergence of gene and cellular technologies, will bring additional transformative, yet expensive, medications and technologies. With the expected imminent FDA approval of the country’s first gene therapy for an inherited disorder- a rare condition that causes blindness—we may have the country’s first drug with a million-dollar price tag. And given the number of companies researching regenerative medicines and the recent FDA guidance designed to expedite their approval, we can anticipate more drugs that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said are based on scientific concepts that “are no longer the stuff of science fiction” to come to market in the near future.
Rhetoric and action
At his first press conference as president-elect in January 2017, Donald Trump said that the pharmaceutical industry was “getting away with murder” with regard to the prices they charged. It is unclear what the federal government’s plan is in this area but at his recent Senate committee hearing, Health and Human Services secretary nominee Alex Azar stated that lowering drug prices would be one of his top four priorities if confirmed.
We’re seeing increasing activism from state governments on this topic. California, for instance, has mandated that beginning January 2018 any drug company doing business in the state must give 60 days’ notice to insurers and government health agencies whenever they raise by 16% or more the price of any drug with a wholesale cost of $40 or more. By 2019, the companies must also justify the price increases. On December 8, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA as it is more commonly known, filed a lawsuit to block the California law stating that it “creates bureaucracy, thwarts private market competition, and ignores the role of insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and hospitals in what patients pay for their medicines.”
The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has also called for more transparency behind pricing drug decisions. On November 30, 2017, it released “Making Medicines Affordable: A National Imperative,” a 201-page plan for “improving the affordability of prescription drugs without discouraging continued innovation in drug development.” The recommendations touch on generics and biosimilars, DTC drug advertising, insurance benefit design and financial transparency.
In another interesting development, The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, or ICER, which Forbes called the “relatively new self-appointed cost-effectiveness watchdog” announced that a charitable donation will allow it to evaluate all newly approved drugs for clinical and cost effectiveness.
The biopharmaceutical industry response—how do communications fit in?
Companies are taking productive measures to address the rising price of drugs. Over the last year, several drugs were launched with novel pricing strategies which were well received by the market and the media. Increasingly, companies are pursuing pay-for-performance, tiered pricing and pricing for market disruption—offering substantial discounts to competitor therapies. Others have pledged not to increase the price of existing drugs.
Communications can play an important role in a number of ways. Each drug, each technology, each disease area has its own nuances but there are a few consistent general principles.
Listen and be collaborative. Create opportunities to engage stakeholders in dialogue about needs and issues. When possible, solicit input from physicians, payers, patient advocates, patients, caregivers-directly. Patient insight and third-party perspective can be immeasurably helpful in communicating a therapy’s value and differentiation.
Bring humanity to the science: Marry hard clinical evidence and the energy of scientific progress with the personal experiences of the patients, physicians and researchers living on the frontlines of medicine. Have an array of people available to speak to the emotional, practical and tangible value of a medication.
Recognize and address the informational needs of disparate stakeholders. Payers want comprehensive health economics data to make informed and rational decisions. Payers and policy makers want to understand disease burden, overall cost to the system and who will be footing the bill for what. Doctors need to see tangible efficacy, safety or reduction in burden evidence that shows a meaningful improvement over existing therapy. Patients must understand how a drug’s price affects them and the process for accessing it.
Communicate clearly. A company I work with recently took the unusual step of including the price of its newly approved therapy in its press release. This simple and straightforward action eliminated guessing and frustration from journalists and resulted in clear, objective reporting.
Emphasize solutions. As mentioned earlier, scientific innovation is increasingly matched with innovative pricing and access models that offer true access benefits. Provide tangible examples of these benefits and clarity about what they do and do not offer.
In the years to come, science will continue to evolve, medicines will come to market that improve and, in increasing instances, even save the lives of many people. At the same time, pressures on access and sustainability will undoubtedly intensify. As healthcare communicators, it is vital that we stay informed, engage in the conversation and try to be part of the solution.
Article featured in The Holmes Report written by: Jill Dosik, President, Global Scientific Communications & Message Impact, GCI Health
New York, NY – December 6, 2017 – GCI Health, the leading global healthcare public relations agency, today announced two new leadership positions. Due to the firm’s growth in medical devices and excit-ing changes in the industry, Edie DeVine, Senior Vice President, is transitioning from her current func-tion as West Coast Market Leader to the newly created role of U.S. Director of Medical & Health Tech-nology. In her new role, Edie will partner with Wendy Lund, CEO, and Kristin Cahill, President, North America, to serve the needs of the agency’s already impressive roster of medical device and health information technology clients, and continue to expand the agency’s work in this area.
“Medical device and technology companies have very specific communications needs on both the business-to-business side as well as their increasing efforts to reach consumers directly,” said Lund. “New innovation in the space is allowing us to do things differently and translate highly complex sub-ject matters in ways that resonate with a variety of audiences.”
Elliot Levy, Senior Vice President, has been named West Coast Market Leader. Elliot, who has been with GCI Health for 10 years in the New York headquarters, recently moved to Los Angeles and will work closely with GCI Health’s senior leadership to continue to service and grow the agency’s client roster and oversee the agency’s expanding team in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Den-ver. Throughout his career, Elliot has built a reputation for providing spot-on strategic counsel and pro-gram management to help clients launch new products and campaigns, develop strategic partnerships and influence consumer attitudes.
“Elliot and I have worked together for many years across a wide range of organizations, including global pharmaceutical companies, start-up biotechnology firms, and non-profit organizations devoted to im-proving public health around the world,” said Cahill. “We’re excited to bring this experience to the West Coast and the diverse healthcare market here as we continue to grow GCI Health’s presence.”
About GCI Health
GCI Health is a full-service specialty healthcare communications firm recently named Global and North America Healthcare Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report and Best of The Best Agency to Work For. The agency’s client roster spans broadly across all sectors in health care, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology, consumer health, provider groups (hospitals and managed care), health IT, beauty and aesthetics and nonprofit. GCI Health offers clients an accessible senior-level leadership team, a commitment to beating client expectations, and an obsession with anticipating the challenges of an increasingly complex and transforming healthcare communications environment. With a deep focus in multichannel marketing, high science, consumer activation, crisis management, reputation building, patient advocacy and health education, GCI Health’s focus on delivering results is unrelenting. For more information, please visit www.gcihealth.com.