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Outcomes Measurement for Dummies…and Smarties

Do you know whether heartburn pills are safe for long-term use?

There is an old joke: “How can you tell if a vendor is lying about ROI?”

Answer: “They’re claiming an ROI.”


That’s not entirely accurate. Some vendors really do achieve savings. This is particularly true with vendors that just reduce the cost of something you need to buy anyway, like Quizzify for ER visits, where in most states 50% reductions in ER Bills are routine for employees using Quizzify2Go. Or Diathrive for diabetes supplies. Or any number of vendors for drugs, my personal choice being Drexi/AMPS, home of the $2.76 90-pill Ambien supply.

But, for behavior-change vendors, you need to be the judge to translate vendorspeak into English. Examples:

  • “We retained independent actuaries to validate our savings” translates as “We paid off some actuaries to fabricate our savings.”
  • “We reduced the risk level for many of the highest-risk employees” omits “…but they would have come down anyway due to regression to the mean.”
  • “We achieved tremendous savings vs. trend” needs the asterisk: “because how we choose the trend determines the savings.” (This one, by the way, was a real quote from a well-known consultant.)
  • “We compared participants to matched non-participants, and found that…” Hard stop. Invalid.

Fortunately, in the next 3 weeks, you’ll have four opportunities to learn how to distinguish valid from invalid measurement.

On August 31 at 2 PM EDT, I’ll be joining Virta Health on a webinar, kicking off the discussion with this very topic: Outcomes Measurement for Dummies…and Smarties. And you can learn why Virta is so valid that I am putting up $100,000 as a “Challenge” for anyone who thinks another vendor’s outcomes are better. Sign up here.


If you really want to dig deep, join Health Benefits Nation in Orlando, hosted by The Validation Institute. This September 14-16 conference in Orlando covers the gamut, but specifically, there is a two hour session on valid measurement starting at 1 PM on the 14th. 

Besides digging deep, the Validation Institute is my forum for, uh, naming appellations and kicking posteriors. And of course, I invite people to sue me if they don’t like what I have to say about them.

We will also have case studies where you need to spot the lies, rather than have me tee the lies up for you. Because that’s what happens in the real world. Lies told by “independent actuaries” aren’t going to invalidate themselves.

Actually, they usually do, but only if you look hard enough…and that’s what this session is all about.


One more vendor is about to join the pantheon of validity, Medencentive. I’ve been over their numbers up, down and sideways, as have many others. They are a health literacy vendor. Not like Quizzify (though they are a Quizzify customer) because they go deep on literacy with people who have specific conditions already, whereas Quizzify is educating on all the points where employees and healthcare meet, as the four examples on the homepage show. They will be hosting a webinar on September 13 at noon EDT. You can sign up here.


Finally, if anyone is anywhere near Houston on the 21st of September and is an early riser, register for The Healthcare Digital Dilemma, where I and several of the leading lights of the field — Josh Berlin, David Carmouche and others — to discuss this “dilemma.” You want to do more digital health…and yet you know most of it doesn’t work.  We’ll be discussing how to find the solutions that do.


In the immortal words of the great philosopher Pat Benatar, hit me with your best shot.

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