How do you reach doctors and other healthcare providers? As patients we know it’s not always easy: You can wait on hold before getting through to the office staff, you can wait a month or so for an appointment, and you can wait some more in an examining room before the doctor finally sees you.
Professional service companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers, and the like also have challenges reaching those healthcare providers. Pharmaceutical companies still send salesmen, called detailers, on the road, hoping to see the doctors in person. But new regulations limit the old-fashioned wining and dining. And the days when doctors took Wednesdays off to play golf are long gone.
Helping those companies connect with their medical and healthcare customers and helping medical and healthcare professionals connect with each other is what keeps Michael J. Hennessy Associates growing like topsy — a company press release, citing a trade group called Kantar Media Data, says it is “the fastest growing privately owned U.S. healthcare media company.”
The organization’s 160 employees are spread out in single story buildings at 666 Plainsboro Road, behind Princeton Meadows Shopping Center. MJH occupies all of Building 300 plus a good part of 400 and 500.
The firm, which reaches more than 600,000 healthcare professionals, earlier this fall extended its reach to patients served by those healthcare professionals.
MJH acquired the CURE Media Group (www.curetoday.com) from McKesson Specialty Health, based in The Woodlands, Texas. According to the MJH release announcing the acquisition, “with nearly 1 million readers, CURE is the largest consumer magazine in the United States focused entirely on cancer, with broad distribution to cancer patients, cancer centers, and advocacy groups. Through the magazine, live meetings, a resource guide for the newly diagnosed, the Extraordinary Healer national nursing award, and other books and online tools, CURE Media Group combines science and humanity to make cancer understandable.”
CURE Media Group’s flagship product, CURE magazine, is expected to complement MJH’s OncLive (www.onclive.com) platform of resources for practicing oncologists. That platform includes its website, the Peer Exchange, and OncInsights video series; a group of monthly and quarterly publications; and a recently launched OncLive News Network, which provides the latest in breaking news on a 24/7 basis. OncLive is also the official communications partner of Physicians’ Education Resource, the educational resource for live and online activities focusing on oncology and hematology.
“We are dedicated to preserving and improving the quality of healthcare throughout the world through research, education, and communication,” said Mike Hennessy Sr., chairman and CEO of MJH. “We look forward to growing the CURE brand and further enhancing its exceptional reputation as a vital resource for patients and their caregivers. We will continue CURE’s rich history of featuring relevant content designed to help patients make informed decisions from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship.”
Looking at MJH and its labyrinthine cubicles stuffed with writers and editors, you get a close-up view of how print can thrive along with online and video components of educational programs as well as communications and marketing. If doctors and healthcare professional are hard to reach, MJH presses all available media into service to reach them.
The company’s history is rooted in the Hennessy family tradition of medical publishing that began with Jack Hennessy Sr., who started in the business working with Thomson Publishing back in the 1960s or ’70s and then formed his own business, Med Publishing, based in Jamesburg. He had three sons, all of whom seem to have gone their separate ways, even though they all became involved in various facets of the medical publishing and healthcare communications business.
Jack Hennessy Jr. followed Jack Sr. into the business and eventually became head of Medical World Communications, which grew in part by acquiring other firms. In 2001 Jack Hennessy Jr. reported revenues of $100 million. But he ran into a legal firestorm in 2002 when the company was sued by the Department of Justice and a whistleblower for defrauding the Postal Service of several million dollars in fees. The issue was over the percentage of circulation that was paid as opposed to free — an amount over 50 percent qualified for lower postage, under that number was more expensive. Medical World eventually settled for $3.1 million. Jack Jr. then sold the company to Ascend Media, based in Overland Park, Kansas, in 2004 and left the business shortly thereafter.
Jeff Hennessy founded Princeton Media Associates in 2001 (based in Millstone Township) and dedicated the company to improving patient care through the delivery of continuing education and information in the form of live events and web-based programming. Princeton Media Associates was acquired by HMP Communications Holdings LLC, based in Malvern, Pennsylvania, in 2008. Hennessy assumed the role of CEO of HMP in 2010. HMP produces more than 100 events a year including national meetings in wound care, psychiatry, and primary care, as well as more than 14 print and digital brands.
Mike Hennessy, a Rider University alumnus, got his feet wet at his father’s company, but in the early 1990s he started Multimedia Healthcare, which published medical journals, and he attracted the attention of Freedom Communications, a California-based newspaper publisher that wanted to get into healthcare communications. In 1999, while still in partnership with Freedom, Hennessy started Intellisphere LLC to focus on the convergence of digital and new technology in healthcare.
In 2001, with Freedom eager to get out of the digital side of the business, Hennessy purchased Freedom’s interest in Intellisphere. Shortly thereafter he started MJH Associates, which also does business as Intellisphere. He located that business in the same office at 666 Plainsboro Road where Multimedia Healthcare had been based.
“Mike is extremely entrepreneurial and has a breadth of vision into the healthcare communication space,” says Tighe Blazier, president of MJH Associates.
Perceiving how the Internet was becoming more a part of the healthcare landscape, Hennessy understood that physicians needed help navigating the Internet and becoming better informed about how new technology was going to be affecting their practices. “Physicians are typically late adopters,” says Blazier. “As healthcare was becoming digital, we really helped physicians move into the digital age.”
Intellisphere published a series of journals called MD Net Guide, which included print magazines and associated websites, starting out in primary care; they soon added Oncology Net Guide, which provided similar offerings to oncologists. “Our editors would scan the Internet and provide primary care physicians with the best of the best in medical websites, provide reviews of websites, and point to specific information in websites that would help physicians gain knowledge and save time when searching the Internet,” says Blazier. “They would also inform physicians about new technology that impacts their practices, from new testing devices to electronic medical records.”
The editors of the Net Guides were journalists who worked closely with an established editorial board of physicians that helped review information and ensure its credibility. Each magazine had a separate physician board.
With the success of MD and Oncology Net Guides, Intellisphere launched Net Guides for several other markets: psychiatry, neurology, cardiology, gastroenterology, and other therapeutic areas. They focused similarly on information for the practicing physician. In the early 2000s, they had more than 200,000 physicians subscribing.
The company views itself as having two types of customers: the physicians who read its magazines and websites but are not typically paying to access the information, and the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies to whom Intellisphere sells advertising space and provides a number of services, developing education programs to better educate physicians both on their drugs as well as on general disease information, by therapeutic area.
“We have a dual mission,” says Blazier. “For our readers, we have to ensure that we provide them with the most credible and timely information; and we allow our pharma clients to communicate with their target audience.”
To make sure that the journals are sharing unbiased medical information, says Blazier, the magazines have a stringent editorial review process. “Anything that we publish goes through a very strict peer review process,” he says. “Anything that is sold or sponsored is clearly marked as ‘sponsored,’ and when the audience reads it, they know the source. There are strict guidelines in medical publishing that we follow to the tee.”
Any sponsored content beyond advertisements in the magazines is in the form of special supplements that accompany the magazines.
With the Net Guides doing well, the company scanned the environment and built out a longer-term plan of where it wanted to be in 5 to 10 years. “The plan was to be able to provide services to our pharmaceutical clients, really covering each drug they developed from inception to the end of its patent life and beyond,” Blazier says.
Part of the new plan was to be able to provide its pharma clients with insight. “In the early phases of a product, pharma companies will engage the services of market researchers, who will help guide and define how that product moves through the market,” Blazier says. So to better serve its clients, MJH acquired Hospital Research Associates in 2004, moved it from Fairfield to Parsippany, and changed the name to Healthcare Research and Analytics to better reflect the company’s position in the market.
The small company was a medium-sized player in the market research area, with about 50 employees and a broad reach. “HRA served hundreds of pharma, biotech, and medical device companies,” Blazier says. “The company was well established; it was probably in the market about 25 years at that point and had a very good reputation in the market.” HRA’s niche within MJH Associates is a focus on managed care, oncology, pharmacy, and hospitals, as well as conference research, where a pharma company hires HRA to go to a conference and do market research there.
Another prong in its longer-term plan was to provide education to healthcare practitioners. So in late 2004 MJH started a company called Scinexa, which focused on the accredited medical education that healthcare practitioners must complete to maintain their licenses. Scinexa’s educational offerings occur via live meetings, digital E-based education programs, which could be text, video, or print based, where they send out an education monograph with a test at the end.
Around 2005, the company acquired ArcMesa Educators, which provided a strong digital learning management platform that enabled online testing and helped physicians manage their continuing medical education (CME) credits. Also attractive to MJH Associates was that the company was accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, the body that governs physician accreditation. The next step was to roll Scinexa into ArcMesa, creating a single group to provide education, technology, and accreditation.
In 2006 and 2007, with physicians now more adept at using the Internet, Oncology Net Guide and MD Net Guide morphed into OncLive and HCPLive. “We changed the name and evolved the editorial package to include cutting-edge clinical information,” says Blazier, noting that there was less of a need to direct physicians to the best medical sites on the Internet.
“That was more established, less of a wild, wild west,” he says.
As physicians’ needs evolved, the company added practical information to help doctors in the daily treatment of their patients. For example, with the approval of a new lung cancer drug, MJH would report on the advancement of the drug and the impact it would have on a physician’s existing patients. “We will do interviews with leading experts to help the community physician have access to the best available clinical information,” says Blazier.
OncLive and HCPLive continue to be produced in print as well as online. “We focused on getting information out accurately and quickly, which is what the Internet provides,” he says. “The print works hand-in-hand with the digital.”
Blazier explains that there are many reasons for maintaining both a print and a digital presence. “We still have a good part of our audience that prefers print,” he says. “I think what print does is create a more intimate experience. When you’re reading your favorite magazine, you’re not distracted by other things happening on the device you are looking at: an E-mail that pops up; three windows that are open and bouncing from one thing to another.”
Blazier makes another distinction that points to a unique value in the print medium. “I think what editors and layout and design people do with print is to provide a great experience and expose people to something they were not necessarily looking for,” he says, noting that online reading tends to be more self-directed and narrowly focused. “With very talented editors pulling the best information and providing it in a well-organized, well-designed publication broadens the horizons of the reader.
“They tend to find things in print that they wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to on the Internet,” Blazier says.
Although anything his company does in print also gets published online, the timing of the two venues is also very different. Whereas the print publications typically come out monthly, websites are updated daily, and even hourly. “We are very aggressive about providing up-to-the-minute information for our audience,” Blazier says.
With these acquisitions, the company had put in place the three-pronged structure that it continues to build on: capabilities in market research, education, and media/communications.
HRA provides information to MJH Associates’ pharma and biotech clients on how physicians think about their products or concepts and how they can better market the product. “We help the marketing research and marketing teams develop their brand and communication strategies,” he says.
Scinexa/ArcMesa provides a platform for medical education, which, Blazier says, is all done via unrestricted education grants provided through separate divisions of pharmaceutical companies that are not connected to marketing in any way. The education programs through ArcMesa provide physicians with information on new advancements in their therapeutic areas by interviewing experts.
Then, in 2008, Mike Hennessy had an opportunity to acquire some of the Medical World Communications assets sold by his older brother, Jack, to Ascend Media, which needed to shed some of its assets as advertising sales began to slow in the time leading up to the recession and financial crisis. Two of the stronger titles were Pharmacy Times and the American Journal of Managed Care. Blazier explains how these titles fit into the existing product mix:
“When you look at bringing a product to market and to provide the best possible patient care, the physician has to be on board — they have to know about the product, to diagnose the condition, and provide the right product to the right patient at the right time,” says Blazier.
Also managed care organizations need to know about the product so they can make the proper decision on how and when the product should be reimbursed.
Finally, the pharmacist is a key component of the healthcare system — the last person to touch the product before the patient goes home with it. “The pharmacist needs to know all the clinical information around a product so the patient takes it safely and avoids any drug-drug interactions,” Blazier says.
“This closed the loop for us in being able to hit just about all the areas of getting a product into the patient’s hands properly, with the right level of reimbursement, and the right coaching for the patient,” Blazier says of the new magazine acquisitions.
All this was happening in 2008, when the recession hit, but MJH weathered times that did in some companies by taking an aggressive stance all the way through. “We increased our own marketing of our company and products,” Blazier says. “We took an aggressive approach because we wanted to push and maintain all the momentum we’d built; while everybody else was pulling back, we made the investment and continued to actively grow our company and market it to our audiences: paying customers and readers.”
“We came out of that and it propelled us ahead of our competition and allowed us to gain on anyone who was ahead of us at the time,” says Blazier.
In 2011 the company acquired Physicians’ Education Resource, another medical education company, with 30 employees, focused solely on oncology. “Because of the success of OncLive, oncology was a growing, blossoming area for us, and we wanted to have a stake in the education market within oncology,” says Blazier. This acquisition brought the company 13 annual meetings that Physicians’ Education Resource ran, including Miami Breast, in its 32nd year, which gets about 1,000 attendees.
MJH later launched two additional titles focused on advancements in personalized medicine, The Journal of Targeted Therapies in Cancer and Targeted Therapies in Oncology. Then in 2013 the company acquired American Journal of Hematology and Oncology and Oncology Nursing News.
The acquisition of CURE Media Group closed on September 30. In addition to the publication for oncology patients and their caregivers, MJH took over administration of the Extraordinary Healer Contest, which runs an awards program for oncology nurses. About this acquisition, Blazier says, “That fully closed the loop for us in the oncology market. CURE magazine is an established brand that is multi-award winning; its circulation is about 300,000, and it probably reaches over a million patients.”
This acquisition bolsters the patient education function that MJH already carries forth in its other divisions, typically delivered through a healthcare professional. MJH also has a special project, “the Educated Patients,” through which it designs education tools for pharmacists and physicians to educate their customers and patients.
The doctors and pharmacists listed on the mastheads of MJH’s journals as editors, advisory board members, and in other roles play a huge role in the development of content for the company’s products, Blazier says. MJH itself has five doctors of pharmacy on its staff, with various roles in the organization. “The people you see on our advisory boards and editorial boards are extremely hands-on in the development of content or the steering of the content and helping guide us on the direction of each one of our franchises,” he says, noting that many are paid consultants, although some are volunteers.
MJH Associates is a holding company; under this are separate business units that work pretty much independently, each run by a business leader. Units include a pharmacy and a managed care business unit within the media franchises; two oncology business units with different sets of titles; and a primary care business unit. HRA ArcMesa and Physicians’ Education Resource are separate, “firewalled” companies that are run independently of other divisions.
At a corporate level, there is a lot of focus on fostering collaboration within and between groups. The sales teams are encouraged to communicate and share knowledge about new products coming to market across individual franchises. MJH also leverages synergies within the publishing companies and market research teams, for example, they might go into a pharma company with representation from both their market research and media teams and together provide a solution to a pharma team preparing to market a product.
The company has built editorial relationships with the thought leaders within all the markets it serves. It has also built strategic alliances with some of the key players in its market; for example, in oncology, the company has relationships with 30 of the NCI-designated cancer centers, including Dana-Farber at Harvard and Sloan Kettering in New York. In the pharmacy arena the company has built more than 100 strategic alliances with retail and specialty pharmacies, including Walgreens and Rite-Aid.
It has also developed an alliance with US News & World Report, which for three years has published the results of MJH’s yearly survey of its audience of pharmacists on what products they recommend in about 150 over-the-counter categories. MJH also shares the yearly results with its pharmacy audience. “It’s helpful for people who have conditions they will self-treat,” says Blazier. “Pharmacists understand the science behind the OTC brands, and they are on the front lines; if it works, they will get feedback from the consumer.”
The strategy from here on is one of continued growth, Blazier says. “We are looking at other acquisitions of other complementary businesses, within those three strategic pillars of market research, media, and medical education.” MJH’s growth thus far, he notes, has been through a combination of organic growth, launching new products themselves, and acquisitions.
Another example of organic growth is a resource MJH launched a year and a half ago within the rare disease category: raredr.com. “There are a multitude of rare diseases with small patient populations; and this is a resource where physicians, caregivers, and patients can go to find the latest information, properly cataloged by the rare disease,” Blazier says. Some rulings from the Food & Drug Administration and the Orphan Drug Act have helped pharmaceutical companies focus more resources on rare disease categories that they may have overlooked in the past because of the tiny patient populations.
Blazier notes that there is plenty of competition in the healthcare communications arena and says that what distinguishes MJH’s products are their timeliness and the credibility of the information.
Although Jack Hennessy Sr. has retired, Mike Sr. is the chairman of the board, and his children, who have grown up in the business, are all involved: Mike Hennessy Jr. runs the Oncology publishing media business unit; Ashley Talamo (Hennessy), the Pharmacy Times business unit; and Chris Hennessy, the Specialty Pharmacy journal within the Oncology business unit. Shannon Hennessy Pulaski, Mike Sr.’s fourth child, got her law degree and is now serving as the company’s legal counsel.
The business units all report to Blazier. Other critical leaders are the CFO, Neil Glasser, and Brian Haug, who has been with Blazier for 16 years and runs the Managed Markets business unit.
The family connection has now begun to reach beyond the Hennessys. Blazier’s son has interned at the company for three years, along with several of his classmates at Monmouth University. Two daughters of Jack Lepping, vice chairman of the board, and two sons of John Maglione, executive vice president and general manager of MJH Associates, have also interned.
This strong and growing internship program has also employed many students who are not family members, from Rider, the College of New Jersey, and several other area universities, and Blazier writes in an E-mail, “We believe in providing this opportunity to students to get a feel for the medical media, education, and market research industries. We are looking to expand this program.”
Noting that “the business is built on great people,” Blazier says the biggest challenge is “continuing to find the best of the best to come work for us and help us build and grow.”
Also critical to the company’s growth strategy is that although it is now a medium-sized company, it has maintained its entrepreneurial spirit. “As these individual business units have a fair amount of autonomy to grow and develop a product, that is part of the magic here — that they are part of it,” Blazier says. “They are helping us to grow through the development of new products and new ideas, which we aggressively bring to market.”
Another strength is in the delivery of video editorial, bringing in the key opinion leaders within a market and interviewing them or having them do a panel discussion. MJH is doing a fair number of remote, three-camera shoots in professional video studios around the country, and the company has just built a studio at 666 Plainsboro Road to shoot, edit, and produce quality video editorial, which appears on the company’s websites.
The initial focus for video was in the oncology area because oncology has lots of cutting-edge, new information coming out daily, says Blazier. Today advances are coming very quickly with personalized medicine and targeted therapies. “Video allows us to provide top quality information, delivered from the experts, in an additional format to typical reporting,” Blazier says. “People have different preferred learning methods, and we want to provide our audience with the best information in every form of media possible.” He adds that the company has always been very digitally focused, with websites that perform very well within the market and a very strong E-mail database of healthcare professionals who have opted to receive E-mail from the company.
Blazier grew up in Parsippany, where his father was a supervisor in the post office and his mother an accountant with Crum and Forster Insurance.
Blazier earned a bachelor of arts in business at Montclair State University, and after college went to work for East Penn Manufacturing, a battery manufacturing company, where he held various sales and sales leadership roles. The company was located outside of Reading, Pennsylvania, but Blazier handled its New Jersey territory.
After about 12 or 13 years with Penn, he was at a high school reunion and a classmate asked him what he was doing workwise. Blazier realized he had grown in his company as far as he could without moving to Reading, and when his friend told him about an opportunity at Mike Hennessy, he jumped at it. “I came in, and felt like I belonged here,” he says, noting that his wife is a registered nurse and he has always had an interest in healthcare and nutrition.
Blazier started out as a national accounts manager, selling advertising space and doing special projects for “Clinical Geriatrics,” close to when Mike was selling that title and others to Freedom Communications. As they were sold, Mike and Blazier started MJH Associates, and Blazier rose quickly through the ranks. He has been president of MJH for about a year, and before that was MJH’s chief operating officer and before that president of MJH’s Pharmacy franchise.
“There’s been a lot of growth over a 15-year period — it’s a lot of fun, a lot of work, and a great group of people who started from a handful,” Blazier says.
Michael J. Hennessy Associates Inc., 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 300, Plainsboro 08536; 609-716-7777. Michael Hennessy, CEO. www.mjhassoc.com.