This blog will give a brief insight into the discipline of medical writing, including the various types of writing and the skills deemed necessary by top medical communications companies.
What do we mean by medical writing?
It’s a question that I commonly encounter when someone asks me about my career and business venture. Although it is vital to pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare communication in general, outside of the industry a medcomms writer's work is often poorly understood. So, here you go...here’s a brief introduction:
So what does a medical writer actually do?
With new scientific discoveries and increased information constantly being added to the field of medicine, information needs to be effectively communicated to the correct people (e.g., patients, clinicians, commissioners etc.), tailored to their level of understanding (i.e., using the appropriate writing style and scientific language), and in the appropriate format.
To give you an example, we may be working on an education course for an in-house sales team on drug safety or a new therapeutic area, involved in writing a publication on research results of a new drug, or working on clinical research protocol visit guides for clinical staff. We may also be creating content for marketing campaigns, developing resources for patients undergoing new treatments, or conducting a needs assessment in a particular disease area. It can be quite varied. See our elearning for health courses.
A collection of facts or results are effectively meaningless to the majority of people if they are not explained clearly, put into context, and their significance and impact discussed. Think of it this way - good medical writing creates the story from the scientific facts...and great writing unlocks entire fields of research to new audiences.
What skills do they need to have?
It is often said it inhabits an interesting sweet spot where science and art meet. However, it is critical to possess a clear understanding of where the scientific facts stop and the expressive art begins.
There are various skills that a senior medical writer needs in order to create a representative, appropriate, and resonating story - here are our top 5.
1. Get familiar quickly
2. Write well and with flare
Data from clinical trials or clinical research/development is often very complex therefore writers must succinctly interpret and represent this data with accuracy, great grammar and flare - everyone loves a good story. Attention to detail, clarity in meaning, and remaining unbiased are also extremely important, particularly when dealing with subjects like drug safety.
3. Know your audience
Complex information about therapeutic areas and life science needs to be tailored to the target audience, for example, the language used for regulatory writing will be very different to that used in a patient information leaflet or education module. Pitching at the right level is vital in communication, much like trying to communicate with locals on holiday - you have to speak their language (shouting louder doesn’t help!).
Check out our blog about tailoring messages to particular audiences for further information.
4. Project management skills
A medical writer will often have a number of projects running simultaneously. They need to be organised with the ability to stick to strict timelines without losing the quality of work. This means project management skills are a must, so accepting responsibilities, being proactive, and delegating efficiently are part and parcel of the role.
Good medical writers will always keep learning and enhancing their skills by undergoing regular CPD. The best will also look for new ways to create interesting and resonating work by embracing technology to communicate more effectively with audiences and clients alike. Read more about the future of continuing medical education.
Are there different kinds of medical writing?
Yes, it can fall into a wide-range of ‘types’ which include:
Who employs medical writers?
Medical writers are commonly employed by the pharmaceutical industry or medical communication agencies. However, with the demand for medical and health writing ever increasing, other organisations are now looking to employ the skills possessed by medical writers. Such alternative settings include: contract research organisations (CROs), medical journals, medical or scientific institutions, and medical websites. Writers can be ‘in-house’ or ‘freelance’, and both have their benefits and drawbacks.
Do you enjoy it?
Yes, the job allows me to combine my love of writing with all things medical or scientific. Positives include, working across a wide variety of therapy areas/topics, constantly learning on the job, and interacting with key experts in their respective fields. Also, I find great satisfaction in the creative process and when something I have helped to develop is well received. The only downside I can find to this job is having to work behind a desk all day!
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Inklab has extensive experience in providing high quality, bespoke and synergistic medical communications solutions with the unique added extra of its own in-house digital and instructional design team. We can quickly transform complex medical and scientific content into multiple digital formats for many different target audiences.
Talk to Inklab about how our team make your complex information easy to understand for different audiences, we are more than happy to help you with your writing and editing projects.
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