Why Virgin Pulse bought Welltok

Virgin Pulse, the employer wellness arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is making another big acquisition. It plans to buy Denver-based patient engagement company Welltok for an undisclosed amount.

Both companies have a similar goal: engaging patients to help them make decisions about their health. But with the acquisition, Virgin Pulse will have access to more communication channels and more healthcare customers.

“We’re very strong on the employer side and they’re strong on the health plan side,” Virgin Pulse CEO Chris Michalak said in an interview with MedCity News. “It will open some completely new markets to the Virgin Pulse business.”

Virgin Pulse, headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, offers wellness programs for employers and has more than 4,000 clients across 190 countries. Its clients consist of several large companies, including Visa, ExxonMobil and St. Joseph Health.

Three years ago, private equity firm Marlin Equity Partners bought Virgin Pulse and Red Brick Health, and merged them together into a single entity. 

Meanwhile, Welltok largely works with health systems and health plans to encourage people to take health actions, such as joining a stress management program or refilling a prescription.

More than 100 health systems currently use its service for patient engagement campaigns or to deliver communications related to Covid-19. It also works with some health plans, pharmacy benefit managers, Medicare Advantage and managed Medicaid programs, and has broadened its footprint with recent acquisitions.

Combined, Virgin Pulse and Welltok would have about 2,100 employees, with Welltok continuing to operate under its current brand for the time being, Michalak said.

“Our two organizations have similar things we care about. At the core of what we both value is making a difference with people and changing lives for good,” he added. “I love that two companies are coming together to help patients and members make great decisions about their healthcare on a forward-going basis.”

The deal is expected to close this month, and is subject to regulatory approvals.

Photo credit: mediaphotos, Getty Images

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