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The Week That Was: Crises in Healthcare Communications

The Week That Was: Crises in Healthcare Communications

March 21, 2016 0 Comments

THE BART TWITTER HANDLE IS #FLAWSOME

As fellow straphangers, we appreciate the plight of frustrated San Franciscans as they awaited delayed trains last Tuesday when the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, was if fact, not very rapid at all. But despite our empathy, our kudos go to the brilliant BART social media community manager who fielded commuters’ frustrated Tweets. The @SFBART twitter account issued nearly 60 responses that were honest, authentic and highlighted what many people know, but rarely acknowledge – the rail infrastructure is crumbling and underfunded. In response to questions about why delays and fixes to the system were so slow, here were some of @SFBART’s replies:

  • “The BART was built to transport far fewer people, and much of our system has reached the end of its useful life. This is our reality.”
  • “We have 3 hours a night to do maintenance on a system built to serve 100k per week that now serves 430k per day. #ThisIsOurReality”
  • “We need to replace 90 miles of rail.”
  • “There’s no sugarcoating problems, especially ones obviously disrupting people’s lives, isn’t an effective or honest way to communicate.”

Train riders expressed their gratitude for the honest responses and stopped much of the grumbling.

Our Take: It’s unclear whether @SFBART went off script but, in our opinion, the move was flawsome – or an awesome response that openly acknowledged its flaws. Increasingly, consumers embrace brands and organizations that acknowledge their flaws as it shows a sense of understanding, humility and humanity. Perhaps a notion that consumer and healthcare companies should consider…


 

PHARMA GETS A BAD RAP FIGHTING STATE BALLOT INITIATIVE

Come November, Californians will have more to mull over than a Presidential candidate to vote for, including giving a yea or nay to the “Drug Price Relief Act.” The state ballot initiative, if successful, would require California’s governmental agencies to pay the same price for prescription drugs as the Department of Veterans Affairs. Supporters argue the law would restrict the amount that state pays for prescription drugs and increase pharmaceutical industry transparency. Opponents say the initiative would be hard to implement, reduce the availability of medicines, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits fighting the measure. Last week, a financial watchdog revealed that 30 pharmaceutical companies (mostly out of state) have contributed nearly $50 million to, “Californians Against The Misleading Rx Measure,” which is a campaign designed to defeat the initiative.

Our Take: California’s ballot initiative is one of many state bills emerging to address the cost of medicines and transparency in drug pricing. While not all bills will prevail, they are creating a need for a patchwork industry response in states across the nation. The biopharma industry faces a tough road ahead as it seeks to counter a narrative arguing for affordability of medicines and transparency in costs. California will be an important state to watch, as it is often paradigm changing. When California moves, other states often follow. We wonder if some proactive concessions might be worthwhile to stem voters potentially seeking more draconian measures in future.


 

WHY CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS?

“Why Can’t We Be Friends…” could’ve been the soundtrack playing behind Seaworld CEO Joel Manby and the Humane Society of America President Wayne Pacelle last Thursday as the two unlikely allies partnered together to announce sweeping commitments for the future of SeaWorld. The two announced SeaWorld would end Orca breading in captivity and phase out current Orca park performances known for tidal splashes and flips – in place of new “Orca encounters” that feature the mammals’ plight in the wild. SeaWorld also committed to expand its rescue operations to the tune of $50 million, in an endeavor to be the largest rescue operation in the world. Manby said the park sought to move away from a monologue and toward dialogue with the Humane Society on shared values – including a love of animals.

Our Take: Well done, Joel Manby [Insert applause here]. The new leader of SeaWorld has managed to change a narrative that focused on declining park sales and mistreatment of animals, to a re-inspired vision about being the largest rescue operation in the world. Only time will tell if the strategy will pay off, but he’s effectively given potential park visitors a more societally acceptable “reason to believe in” and enjoy the efforts of the SeaWorld organization. And in sitting down with the Humane Society – a previously staunch critic of SeaWorld – Manby reminded us that sometimes establishing a personal dialogue is the best path toward finding shared solutions. If only Washington would take a cue…


 

IT’S A GO — GMO

That’s what General Mills said last week, when it announced it would begin voluntarily labeling all products made with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The nationwide decision comes in advance of a Vermont law that requires GMO labeling in the Green Mountain State. The food company stated it was impractical to have unique packaging for one state, and called for a national solution to the labeling debate. The announcement comes less than a year after General Mills halted the use of artificial flavors and colors in its products.

Our Take: With a population of 625,000, Vermonters are just .19% of the total U.S. population, but were able to drive a company into national change. Granted, the company’s decision is consistent with both General Mills as well as that entire industry’s growing trend toward marketing more “natural” products. But, it also demonstrates the way a patchwork of state laws can have the same effect of creating national requirements…a lesson pharmaceuticals should keep in mind.

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