Once a health tech industry darling, Chicago-based unicorn Outcome Health has lately found itself on hard times.
Since the publication of a Wall Street Journal investigation alleging the point of care digital advertiser had misled its clients by providing inaccurate and manipulated performance data, Outcome has faced a lawsuit from its biggest investors, severed deals with major hospitals, and broken relationships with several high-profile advocacy organizations. Not to be lost amidst the fallout was another class-action settlement concerning “daily nutrition tip” texts; a shuffling Outcome’s cofounders, Rishi Shah and Shrada Agarwal, from CEO and president positions to chairman and vice chairman roles; and the appointment of new board members as well as a CEO.
Now more than a year out from the start of its troubles, Outcome envisions itself as an organization reborn, and repentant. Speaking on stage at CES 2019’s Digital Health Summit, Outcome Health’s Chief Operating Officer Nandini Ramani, who acted as the company’s interim leader after its cofounders stepped down, told attendees that her company is well aware of its current reputation within the industry.
“Are we being held to an unfair standard? Absolutely, and given everything that went down, we can’t argue,” Ramani said at the event. “But I’ve taken the view, the company and as a whole and the leadership team and everyone, that it’s a good thing, not just for Outcome Health, but for the whole industry. Transparency, there’s nothing like it, and what we are doing in terms of measurement and metrics and things. I think it’s unparalleled not just in our industry but in the digital industry all together.”
Formerly the VP of engineering at Twitter, Ramani joined Outcome just a couple months before the company came under scrutiny. She said she was initally drawn by the opportunity of repurposing her digital media expertise toward something that would directly benefit the public, like healthcare. Unexpectedly finding herself steering the ship after Outcome’s fall from grace simply served to amplify that challenge.
"All the reasons that I joined the company … the mission, the purpose, all of those are still as valuable,” she said. “And more importantly, the point of care industry is ripe for disruption, and when you run the programs right … the numbers just show you that it just works. I looked at the numbers, I went into it deep and, yes, do we need new standards? Do we need data integrity and rigor and things like that? Absolutely, but I’ve done that before in my other roles, so I figure I’m going to double down and do this.”
So far, reviving the company’s reputation has consisted of an increased focus on transparency, Ramani explained. Along with revising the company’s internal guidelines, a partnership with BPA Worldwide (the auditor that Outcome also hired to conduct an internal investigation of its practices around the time of the allegations) has the company supplying all of its data for third-party review.
“I think it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose and mission and people you’re actually there to serve. … The lines of tension between sales and ops, that’s more of what gets carried away; if you let the revenue side dictate everything, then you lose sight of the mission,” Ramani said. “This last year has been a year of rebuilding, creating infrastructure, ensuring that we have all of the guardrails, data infrastructure, to actually report and ensure not just our paying clients, but also our providers. We don’t monetize on that front, but the data is just as important to them because ultimately they are on the same mission as we are: to get patients healthier and better.”
With that being said, it appears to be the quality and potential of Outcome’s content seemed to be what Ramani was most interested in highlighting during her time on stage. Whether it’s educational materials developed by medical professional groups, messages developed by the provider organization itself or even the paid and monetized ads, she said that any materials delivered directly at the point of care are uniquely positioned to impact patient behavior for the better — a mission that the company will never achieve if it can’t regain the public’s trust.
“You owe it to the people standing alone and their loved ones waiting at home, and you have the ability to influence all those behavior patterns and help them get better,” she said. “It gives me goosebumps when I talk about it. I really feel passionate, [and] I want everyone to come back and partner. No matter what went down — or did not, as the case may be — I feel like we’re such a different company now. We have new board members, we have new leadership in place. And what we’re doing in terms of data integrity, technology infrastructure and scaling and stuff, it’s unparalleled. I want people to come and walk with us on this journey.”