Employees at a health technology startup that installs TV screens and tablets in doctors’ offices to assist with patient education provided inflated data to pharmaceutical companies to boost ad sales, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
The Chicago-based company pulled in $500 million during its first round of funding in May, attracting high-profile investors like Goldman Sachs and Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Outcome Health sealed up a partnership with Harvard Medical School in August.
Outcome Health installs the screens free of charge, but its revenue is driven by ad sales. Outcome’s website claims it is “building the world’s largest platform for actionable health intelligence at the moment of care.”
But former employees and advertisers told the Wall Street Journal that certain Outcome employees were providing misleading data to advertisers by inflating the number of doctors’ offices that had installed screens. Pharmaceutical companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Boehringer, that purchased ads to appear on those screens would provide the company with a list of doctors whose patients they wanted to target. Outcome matched that list with its own list of offices that have installed the technology and quote a price based on the number of matches.
Former employees tell the news outlet the employees would include offices they hoped would sign up, or charge for multiple doctors practicing at the same location. Others said certain employees doctored screenshots to send to advertisers and manipulated third-party reports estimating how many prescriptions were written as a result of the ads.
According to the Journal, the company is investigating the misconduct and has put three employees on paid leave, including Ashik Desai, Outcome’s chief growth officer and executive vice president of business operations, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In a statement emailed to FierceHealthcare, a company spokesperson said Outcome has "rigorous policies and practices that deliver on contractual terms with transparency to our customers when campaigns experience issues." The spokesperson noted that the incidents identified by the Wall Street Journal took place between 2014 and 2016 and added that the company has increased reporting and transparency to clients and "adopted the most rigorous campaign audit standards in the industry."
"The company's policy has always been to accurately report information to every customer on every program," the spokesperson said. "If there was any misconduct by any employee, we will deal with it very strongly and take appropriate action."
Outcome founder and CEO Rishi Shah also issued a public statement to customers outlining the actions the company has taken to "elevate the standards of reporting and transparency in our nascent industry."