Q&A: Matt McNally on the road ahead for Outcome Health and the state of the POC union

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This is the third in a three-part series delving into one of marketing's most misunderstood media spaces.

It's past quitting time on Friday afternoon at the end of an airless week in late July, but Outcome Health's newly anointed chief Matt McNally is, in his own words, “fresh, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.” Thirty days into his Outcome tenure, the former leader of Digitas Health and Publicis Health Media has conducted the customary listening tour – with internal and external audiences alike – and is set to lead the company as it pushes past the fraud allegations leveled at the end of 2017. Here, he shares his thoughts on the post-controversy Outcome Health and the overall state of the point-of-care union.

MM&M: Talk about the transition from the agency world to Outcome Health.

Matt McNally: I had always said I would never, ever leave for another agency because what Publicis has in the healthcare space is so fantastic. What attracted me, and what has been really interesting about the transition, is Outcome Health truly offers every aspect of what I see happening in marketing and communications today.

It's a product and technology we have through our systems at the point of care. It's marketing and sales to our pharmaceutical manufacturers and agencies. It's content, given everything we're putting on our devices. It's relationship marketing with our provider network. And it's supply chain, in terms of warehousing, and servicing and installing our equipment.

MM&M: You're saying maybe Publicis and Outcome Health aren't quite as different as people would think. What are some of the other kinships or similarities?

Matt McNally: Every business is a people business. There's a relentless focus on the end customer. But the main similarity is the end customers across agencies at Publicis and Outcome Health are providers and patients. There are similarities in terms of that vision, mission, and core focus, and that was comforting for me. Also, being [an Outcome] client before I came here, I had a lot of familiarity with the network and people. It was easier for me to get up to speed and onboarded. 

MM&M: What are the surprises that came with getting up to speed?

Matt McNally: When I was on the agency side, I didn't understand the complexities of what it takes to run a network such as this. I never thought about how the devices got installed. I was just interested in what offices we could partner with to ensure we could distribute educational and, if it made sense, promotional efforts. I never thought of the back of the house, if you will. That part has been super interesting for me – to learn about the back-end operational components that make this organization sing, and also the product and engineering pieces. 

MM&M: When you told your peers you were planning to take this position, what was their reaction?

Matt McNally: My old superiors, my peers, and my team were beyond supportive. At the end of the day, POC and Outcome Health are phenomenal for two key reasons. Number one, for years, as pharmaceutical marketers we always said, “Wouldn't it be great if we could walk in with the patient?” That conversation is so complex, and POC enables us to be in that moment. So, from a manufacturer and marketing perspective, this is awesome.

Second, as a person at the POC, the doctor's office or the hospital represent the most emotional part of the patient journey. You're about to get a diagnosis. You think something's wrong with you, you don't know what it is, and you're scared. Or maybe you're going in with your wife for the first time and hoping she's pregnant. You're ready to start a family, and find out she is. Or you're suffering from a chronic condition and just trying to live your life and, yet again, you're reminded there's something wrong with you. So, I think everyone sees the value in POC. 

MM&M: The end of last year was challenging for Outcome Health. Give me a state of the union for the company today, circa late July.

Matt McNally: What we're really excited about, and what we're feeling internally and from my meetings with a bunch of agencies and a few manufacturers, is everyone's ready to turn the page. Everyone has always believed in the platform. Everyone's really excited to hear about all the things we've put in place to help rebuild that trust and move forward.

MM&M: What are the takeaways and learning from the issues that came to light last year? What are some of the things Outcome Health can do better?

Matt McNally: What I can say is we're really doubling down on auditing, transparency, and operational processes. We've spent the past eight or nine months doing a deep qualification and validation process of our network and on our campaigns, and how we report on those. So, that was a huge lesson learned. We are not only doing what we should be doing, but are also raising the bar of what I'm hoping for the entire POC industry.

We're in conversations with Nielsen. (After MM&M's conversation with McNally, Outcome formally announced a partnership with Nielsen on qualification of its data. -Ed.) We're the only POC company having conversations with them, in terms of how do we truly audit our audience as they've done historically with other channels, including typical out-of-home advertising. A lot of things I'm excited about, I'm hoping our partners and other POC companies will do the same as we continue collectively as an industry to drive this section of the category forward.

MM&M: The conversations you mentioned, whether it's with agencies or manufacturers – how would you characterize the tenor of them? Was there a sort of show-me attitude on their part?

Matt McNally: Pre-me, I've heard there was a lot of show-me. They really wanted to understand what we had put in place. What I can say with confidence since I've been here is, one, they all openly say they are very confident someone such as me – who was a client, has been in this industry for a while, and sees the value in what POC and specifically Outcome Health can bring – is here. And like I said, the tenor is they want to move on. “Let's get through what we need to get through and start to look forward to 2019.” I would characterize most of the conversations as optimistic and very positive. 

MM&M: What are the most important changes to have been put in place?

Matt McNally: The BPA auditing is super important because that is giving us the real number of our network, and we're able to share that on a monthly basis with our clients. Most other POC companies, and even historically Outcome Health, were working on projections – “our network is projected to be X amount.” The BPA auditing is fully transparent to our customers. BPA has full access to all of our data and we are sharing that. That has immediately helped us from a confidence perspective and is one of the biggest changes we've put in place.

We are also leading with a true business rationale for not only “why Outcome Health?” but really “why POC?” And we have a unique perspective on how POC can drive patient impact beyond just financial revenue impact in terms of bottom-line drug sales, but also outcomes beyond better education – better dialogue with physicians and just making someone feel better.

MM&M: How about the internal conversations that took place after everything that happened last year? On that first day you came in, what did you do?

Matt McNally: In the very first week, I did stand-up town halls at all three of our locations, talking about some of the things I'm sharing with you: why Outcome Health, why I've committed my career to the health and wellness industry, and the value I see in our organization. I've had individual team meetings with all of our key departments and several one-on-one meetings.

I was beyond impressed by the solutions-based attitude this team has. I was expecting much more negativity, doom, and gloom. The team has identified challenges and issues, and they all have ideas and solutions. They've all stayed here because they believe in not only the power of this category, but also in Outcome Health. It made me feel even more confident about coming here, because they all want to be here. 

MM&M: Returning to the POC space a little more broadly, what are the specific opportunities for Outcome Health and what is the company doing to take advantage of them?

Matt McNally: One of the big things I want to make sure we continue to do is ensure the experience we're delivering for patients and our providers is premium – not only in terms of the devices and the technology, but also in terms of delivering the utilities they need in that setting and understanding how that may vary. No disease state, patient, or provider is the same – so how is the content we're delivering paying off on that promise?

MM&M: After everything that happened last year, do you think the competition within POC has intensified? Does Outcome Health have to overperform in the wake of everything that happened last year?

Matt McNally: There's plenty of room for everybody. POC is such a big marketplace and there are so many changes happening in the health and wellness industry that, in my opinion, the more the merrier. And I've always been someone who wants to stay up to speed with my customers, not my competition. My end customers are patients and healthcare professionals, and I want to make sure we're fulfilling all of their needs. We elevate what we do based on what they need, versus what's happening in the marketplace with the competition. 

MM&M: What's next? If we're speaking again in six or 12 months, what do you hope and expect to be telling us?

Matt McNally: What I hope and expect is that Outcome Health as an organization is back to where we have set our minds to be: A true leader in the POC space in every aspect, from our trust and transparency, to our relationships and our relentless focus on our multiple end stakeholders. I am confident we are going to tell you a story about a culture and an environment that is laser-focused on its employees, and a true destination in every market we're in as a place to work if you are passionate about the health and wellness industry.

For the first part in the "The New POC Landscape" three-part series, click here. For the second part, click here.

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