Everyone needs a smile once in a while, especially after a long week. However, that smile may just cost you, especially if it’s the smiley face variety. Turns out, the smiley face is actually trademarked in over 100 countries. The owner of the trademark, the aptly named “Smiley Company,” charges all kinds of brands a per-use fee to use smiley faces on any kind of merchandise. Smileys are big business: there are now “close to 300 licensees” across the world and “the value of the smiley products selling globally is over $400 million.”
And here we thought biopharma licensing and IP restrictions were competitive!



 A new analysis from CrowdTangle suggests that the President’s tweets don’t have the same impact they did when he first took office. The analysis focused on President Trump’s Twitter engagement rate, which has “fallen from 0.55% in the month he was elected to 0.32% in June 2017 — and down to 0.16% this month through May 25.” One reason for the drop in interaction may be an increased number of tweets. As any of our digital strategists would tell you, too many tweets can decrease the odds that a single tweet will stand out.


 For the first time in 15 years, Chinese tourism rates to the U.S. have dropped. Most have attributed this decline to tensions with the U.S. and economic uncertainty in China, but a U.S.-specific travel warning issued by China last summer may be a contributing factor. What did China warn its citizens about? Shootings, robberies and high costs for medical care. Sounds like a surprise medical bill isn’t exactly the souvenir Chinese tourists are hoping for.


 The World Health Organization updated the definition of “burnout” in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), categorizing it as a syndrome linked to “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” While the WHO does not classify burnout as a medical condition, supporters of the update hope it will enhance recognition of symptoms and help foster mainstream awareness of burnout as a severe issue. This awareness may be particularly important in the U.S., where physicians experience burnout almost twice as often as other workers. It’s a phenomenon that is costing the U.S. an estimated $4.6 billion every year.


 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the measles outbreak has officially surpassed the 1994 record. If the outbreak continues into this fall, the U.S.’ “measles elimination status" will be at risk. With Maine and New Mexico reporting their first patients last week, there are now 971 reported cases across 26 states. At the top of that list is our home state of New York, with the highest number of new infections. Turns out, first isn’t always best


 A report from “The Daily”, a New York Times podcast, included secret recordings from inside North Carolina Children’s Hospital. The recordings reveal internal concerns about the hospital’s performance in pediatric surgery — concerns that were discussed (and taped) in cardiology department meetings and even elevated to the head of the hospital. On the recordings, doctors are heard grappling with the decision of where they should refer their surgical patients to UNC’s surgical program or a competitor hospital – a decision that could negatively impact UNC’s bottom line. In one of the recordings, the Chief of Pediatric Cardiology is heard saying. "It's a nightmare right now…we are in crisis, and everyone is aware of that."


Syneos Spotlight

Legislative action on drug pricing is not only an industry hot-topic, it’s a campaign trail talking point. And all signs point to legislative action in the very near future. In a new PM360 piece, our own Meg Alexander breaks down some of the leading policy proposals – and what they could mean for industry.

And look out for our teammates Peter Pitts, Meg Alexander and Michelle Leeds at BIO International this week in Philadelphia.  Peter will be speaking on Who’s Getting Funded in the Biopharma Industry – and Where the Money is Going!


The problem with transparency

Like many in the industry, we’ve been holding our breath for the rumored executive order on increasing transparency in healthcare costs, which was initially expected this week. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t happened yet.

Still, it got us thinking a lot about transparency initiatives around costs (e.g. hospital bills, drug prices) and what is – or isn’t – making an impact with patients.

If a healthcare cost transparency tool is developed, but no one uses it, does it make an impact?

Study after study suggests that Americans are craving more transparency from corporations. Yet, recent research calls into question what actually happens when people are given tools to achieve more transparency. For example:

  • About 70,500 families in a study were given access to the Truven Treatment Cost Calculator to help them access information about healthcare costs and make informed decisions. During the study period, only 11% of participants used the tool and only 1% used it 3 or more times.
  • In a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of adults with employer-sponsored health insurance, just 23% of respondents reported using an online tool to research the cost of different healthcare providers. Only 17% attempted to shop around at different providers to find the best price.

This research suggests that, even when transparency tools are available, many don’t know the tools exists, where to find them or how to use them. Others simply choose not to use the tools.

Transparency is only part of the equation.

Many well-intended policymakers may rationalize that if patients have more information about costs, they can “shop around” for care, thus incentivizing companies and institutions to price competitively. However, this overlooks two core issues in our healthcare system: limited choice and healthcare literacy.

Patient choice is often limited. While transparency tools might empower patients to “shop around,” patients may only have a few – or even just one – option that works for them. Patients likely can’t control the insurance company their employer chooses. They may find that there is just one medicine that is best suited for their condition. And, they may be unable to travel geographically to get care at a lower-cost hospital.

Selecting healthcare services isn’t like ordering at a restaurant.  “Pricing Menus” that reflect the cost of care for certain services or therapies are inherently flawed. They assume patients know exactly which services they require and are aware of the add-on services associated with a major procedure (e.g. follow-up care, rehabilitation, etc). Menus commonly rely on list prices, which may not accurately reflect the different prices a patient might pay based on their insurance.

Our take: Only time will tell if healthcare cost transparency will see legislative action. Regardless, it’s critical for the industry to understand what transparency tools can help achieve, and where limitations lie.

Who wrote this? The managing editors of TWTW are Dana Davis, who is pleased about summer weather, but not the start of “office winter,” and Randi Kahn, who is looking forward to her first outdoor concert of the season next week. Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.

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Image credits: Bird by Husein Aziz from the Noun Project, Chinese Flag by Derek Williams Green from the Noun Project, Stressed Man by Akshar Pathak from the Noun Project, K-Means by Knut M. Synstad from the Noun Project, Magnifying Glass by Edward Boatman from the Noun Project

And now please enjoy this disclaimer that prevents our team from getting in a heap of trouble: This report may contain links to external or third party websites. These links are provided solely for your convenience. Links taken to other sites are done so at your own risk and Syneos Health accepts no liability for any linked sites or their content. Syneos Health makes no warranties or representations, express or implied about such linked websites, the third parties they are owned and operated by, the information contained on them or the suitability or quality of any of their products or services. Syneos Health does not authorize the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material offered through these linked sites. Please refer to the use agreement and/or copyright statements of any external site you visit, or the terms and conditions of any externally provided web site for instructions, restrictions, and guidelines. If you have a question, please contact the webmaster of the external site.

About the Author:

Dana Davis is a strategist in the Reputation & Risk Management Practice, where she helps biopharma clients communicate the value they bring to their stakeholders. Her expertise lies in issues of corporate activism; advising companies that must respond to activist tactics from patients, employees, or investors, as well as companies looking to take a proactive stance on social issues.

Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.