Employees of Chicago-based digital healthcare advertiser Outcome Health allegedly misled the company’s clients by providing inaccurate and manipulated advertisement performance data, according to an investigation published Thursday in the Wall Street Journal.
Citing interviews with former employees, advertisers, and internal documents, the Journal wrote that Outcome employees had intentionally inflated ad performance metrics, altered third-party ad performance analyses, and created false documents verifying that ads ran on screens in specific doctors’ offices.
Lanny Davis, Outcome’s spokesman and council, told the publication that Outcome has hired a law firm to independently “review allegations about certain employees’ conduct.” The company has also adopted new policies to better comply with customer contracts, and has put three employees on paid leave.
Outcome Health was founded as ContextMedia in 2006, and in January changed its name after concluding the acquisition of competitor AccentHealth. The company equips providers’ waiting rooms with screens and tablets that display patient education materials along with pharmaceutical marketing. In May, the company announced that it had raised at least $500 million in a round of funding, lending the company a valuation of around $5 billion at the time. Its investors include Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Alphabet’s CapitalG, Leerink Transformation Partners, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, and Balyasny Asset Management. Among the customers to whom Outcome has offered compensation for the alleged deception are Sanofi, Biogen, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, according to the Journal.
In the time since the Journal published its investigation, Outcome Cofounder and CEO Rishi Shah has issued a public statement to the company’s customers outlining the company’s stance on the unethical practices and actions taken in light of the allegations.
“Integrity is the foundational value at Outcome Health — that has always been our commitment,” Shah wrote in the statement. “[President Shradha Agarwal] and I, alongside our entire leadership team, have been building a company that operates appropriately, delivers effectively for our customers, and continuously strives towards excellence in all of our operations. We have taken many actions to elevate the standards of reporting and transparency in our nascent industry.”
Along with hiring the law firm to review the employees’ past conduct, Shah said that these specific actions included the adoption of more rigorous platform and campaign audit standards, the addition of new checks and balances within automated campaign reporting, and a new policy providing customers the capability to include a third party BPA Worldwide audit on any sold programs.
Shah also said in the letter that Outcome will contact any misled customers to remedy their situation, and that he still believes the fundamentals of Outcome’s business and services are sound.
The Journal’s investigation identified Chief Growth Officer Ashik Desai, an executive directing Outcome’s list-match process, as an instigator of the falsified advertising metrics, and provided specific examples of communications between him and others demonstrating unethical business practices. Davis told the Journal that these were among the issues to be addressed by the independent counsel and reaffirmed the company’s policy “to accurately report information to every customer on every program.” The Journal also noted that its investigation found no evidence suggesting the involvement of top executives in these practices.