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The Week That Was: Crises in Healthcare Communications

The Week That Was: Crises in Healthcare Communications

February 22, 2016 0 Comments


Wifi is the most sought after feature on a flight, which is why American Airlines is seeking to end its contract with wireless Internet provider Gogo. The airline filed a lawsuit with the Texas District Court to end its contract with the WiFi provider due to dissatisfaction with the service. American Airlines stated that Gogo has not remained up to date with the “changed technology and competitive landscape” and that American believes that providing “superior WiFi options to passengers is critical.”

Our Take: Praise be, American Airlines! The number of times our team has considered Tweeting Gogo mid-air to complain about its service was only foiled by the fact that the damn Wifi was too slow for the Tweet to post. But, despite its good decision-making to drop a poor Wifi service provider, American was less adroit in its handling lawsuit complaints. Despite a rather populist announcement for its’ rationale to dump GoGo, it’s legal complaint documents – which are by definition public – repeatedly focus on potential revenue loss from risk of lost customers rather than consumer convenience. It was a classic case of legal documents not matching the public narrative American wants to peddle. So, while a court filing can’t be a press release, they are a form of communication and key messages should be consistent across all your platforms.



Can financial stress further endanger a cancer patient’s physical and emotional well-being? You bet, say physicians, including Dr. Jonas De Souza, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center. De Souza developed a questionnaire to assess the level of “financial toxicity,” otherwise known as financial stress that cancer patients face. The tool aims to determine if certain treatments yield more financial distress than others. He argues financial toxicity is a side effect of cancer treatment and physicians have an ethical responsibility to consider this when determining appropriate treatments. A similar sentiment was echoed by 100 other oncologists who called for lower cancer medicine prices in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings last spring.

On the heels of this ‘financial toxicity’ survey, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation announced a $7.2 million donation to four organizations to fund research and pilot projects aimed at reducing drug costs for patients. Among the grant recipients is Dr. Peter Bach, a vocal critic of drug pricing, who is leading a three-year project at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s to test the links between pricing and a drug’s value.

Our Take: This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the price for oncology therapy is under scrutiny in the medical community. If you are the maker of an oncology medicine, you should be asking yourself how will my drug fare on the De Souza’s “financial toxicity” score. And for the industry at large, we speculate the Andersons may be the first in a series of future philanthropists tackling drug prices. While a seven million dollar grant seems like a lot, it is small beans compared to the potential financial fire power of other billionaire philanthropists.



What do you do when the FBI orders you to provide full access to a terrorist’s iPhone? Most would respond with a one word answer, “comply.” Yet, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook explained in an 1,100 word open letter why Apple is refusing to take this action. In an appeal addressed to consumers, Cook explains that if Apple offered access it would set a dangerous precedent and be tantamount to creating software that could be used by hackers to crack the code of all its phones. Cook explained the FBI’s request “threatens the security of our customers.” The letter went on to list the many steps Apple has taken to support the FBI in the San Bernardino investigation in compliance with its code of ethics.

Our Take: Once again Tim Cook has demonstrated what it means to communicate in a time of crisis. Instead of issuing a traditional press release, he chose to address the situation in a very personal appeal to his consumers explaining why releasing the confidential transfers of a terrorist, in fact, jeopardizes the security of their own data. Customers reading this may appreciate Apple’s commitment to the safety of their data and can understand Apple’s point of view, whether they agree or not. Last year, Cook also took a clever tact by conducting a media tour prior to Congressional testimony on questions about Apple’s domestic tax responsibilities – in effect positing his own narrative in the public domain before it was defined for him.

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