Outcome Health launches internal probe, offers client audits after WSJ report

Outcome Health Digital Board
Outcome Health and its digital health marketing in-office network came under fire last week, and the company has since laid out its plans to respond.

Outcome Health went into crisis communications mode after a Wall Street Journal article last week said the fast-growing pharma services company had misled its advertisers. Within hours, the company posted a letter to clients—on its website and social media—outlining in detail how it was addressing the problem.

Formerly ContextMedia, Outcome serves up pharma and healthcare advertising and sponsored content though its network of in-office digital displays and tablets. Citing former employees and internal documents, the WSJ reported that some advertisers had been overcharged, and that some salespeople created documents or manipulated analyses to make ads appear more effective.

The WSJ noted it had “found nothing to demonstrate top executives’ involvement” in the alleged wrongdoing. The reported incidents occurred between 2014 and 2016.

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In its statements, Outcome told clients that, effective immediately, it will allow customers a third-party BPA audit to verify campaign results.

Shortly after the story broke, Outcome announced it had hired high-powered trial lawyer and former U.S. Attorney Dann Webb of Winston & Strawn to investigate “any concerns that have been raised about the past conduct of certain employees.” The company suspended three employees with pay while it reviews claims about their conduct, the Journal reported. The company also hired lawyer Lanny Davis, a former special counselor to President Bill Clinton, as a spokesman after the publication’s investigation, the paper said.

An Outcome spokesman redirected FiercePharma to the company's statement when asked for additional comment.

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Outcome also seemed to shut down its social channel interactions after posting the letter—neither the company Twitter account nor the personal Twitter accounts of cofounders Rishi Shar and Shadhra Argwal has posted anything since the story broke.

All the pharma company customers whose ads were reportedly involved, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AbbVie, declined to comment to the WSJ.

The controversy comes as Outcome Health has experienced rapid growth with first round funding of more than $500 million in May, the announcement of a new downtown Chicago headquarters and plans to add 2,000 jobs within five years.

Outcome has also made some high level executive hires this year, including Nancy Phelan, the former head of worldwide commercial operations at Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Vivek Kundra, the former chief information officer of the U.S. under President Obama, and Blake Chandlee, Facebook's former vice president of global partnerships and an early employee there.