3 medical associations cut ties with Outcome Health, as others reconsider their partnerships

In June, the American Medical Association (AMA) unveiled a partnership with a hot new startup to distribute interactive educational information about prediabetes to tablets and TV screens installed in 1,000 physicians offices across four different states.

The partnership with Outcome Health, which included no financial agreement, was beneficial for both parties. As part of a pilot project, AMA had a medium to distribute educational materials at the point of care to improve awareness about a disease that impacts more than 80 million Americans but frequently goes undetected. Outcome Health, which was coming off a $500 million funding round, had the backing of the nation’s largest physician trade group.

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But that partnership has come to a grinding halt following allegations that Outcome Health misled investors and provided advertisers with inflated data to boost sales. Although the pilot ended in October, the AMA indicated that Outcome Health had agreed to continue running materials on screens throughout its network of physician practices free of charge.

“In light of recent unfavorable reports in the media regarding Outcome Health, we requested that all AMA content displayed on any ContextMedia platforms be removed immediately,” AMA told FierceHealthcare, referring to Outcome Health by its former business name.

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AMA is not the only organization rethinking its relationship with Outcome Health. Allegations of fraud swirling around the company have led at least six other medical associations to either terminate their agreement, decline an extension or launch an internal review. The medical association agreements do not include any financial terms, but organizations are still distancing themselves from the startup that has quickly come under legal and regulatory scrutiny for is business dealings.

A spokesperson for Outcome Health said the "vast majority" of content partners were continuing their relationship with the company.

"We remain committed to always delivering best-in-class health information to all of our medical offices and health systems, including assessments, patient stories, 3D anatomical models, recipes for healthy living, treatment options and other educational content that empower patients and physicians to have more meaningful conversations in the moment of care," the spokesperson said. "We are maintaining and adding to our robust library of healthcare content, including by expanding relationships with world class health and wellness organizations."

Other agreements terminated

The American Epilepsy Society (AES), which announced a partnership with Outcome Health in July, is one of two other organizations that terminated their agreements with the startup. A spokesperson told FierceHealthcare the partnership, designed to bring educational content to 3,800 active physicians within AES's membership as well as 41,000 practices within Outcome’s membership, was put on hold in October and terminated earlier this month.

Likewise, CancerCare, a national organization that supports individuals diagnosed with cancer, has severed ties with Outcome Health, according to a company spokesperson. As part of an agreement announced in February, resources and information produced by CancerCare ran on Outcome’s network of oncology offices.

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The American Heart Association signed an agreement with Outcome last December when the company was still operating under the name ContextMedia. Months later the pair announced a collaboration to produce original video content and infographics on digital wallboards, exam room tablets and waiting room screens in 55,000 physician offices. A spokesperson said AHA has no plans to extend its contract, which ends on Dec. 1.

More organizations reconsider partnerships

Meanwhile, three organizations that have partnered with Outcome Health in the last year—the National Infusion Center Association (NICA), Harvard Health Publishing and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)—are reexamining their relationships. Each organization expressed concern about Outcome Health’s potential misconduct.

“We take the allegations lodged against Outcome Health very seriously,” NICA Executive Director Brian Nyquist said in an email to FierceHealthcare. “As such, NICA is internally evaluating the continuation of our partnership with Outcome Health.”

And in a statement, the AAD said, “We have paused to reach out to the company, seeking information that will give us assurance that they are conducting business in a manner that is reputable and meets the highest ethical standards.” A spokesperson clarified that Outcome Health is still distributing AAD content. The two organizations announced an agreement in November 2016.

Harvard Health Publishing, which agreed in August to provide faculty to review content distributed by the company and to conduct research related to clinical trials and the patient experience, is also reevaluating the partnership.

"Given the serious nature of recent events, we are reviewing the situation to determine next steps," Greg Curfman, editor-in-chief of Harvard Health Publishing, said in an emailed statement. 

Of the organizations contacted by FierceHealthcare, the Alzheimer’s Association was the only one that provided any assurance that it would remain with Outcome Health. Although the group hadn’t made any plans to cut ties with the startup, a representative said it was monitoring the situation.

Three organizations—the American Lung Association, the American Urological Association and United Rheumatology—did not return multiple requests for comment. The Society for Pediatric Dermatology declined to comment.