Innovation in Changing Times
The COVID-19 pandemic brought sudden global change as the world adjusted to new ways of working. The impact on the pharmaceutical industry was wide-ranging and required rapid innovation to ensure the continuation of clinical trials and the publication of key scientific data in a timely manner, in formats appropriate to the increased range of audiences.
Quick adaptation to virtual meetings has enabled the engagement of a wider range of audiences.
Further innovation is required as it is likely that hybrid meetings will be common in the future.
Our Insights Into 2021 and Beyond
“There really is no better time to be working in scientific communications. I hope the positive changes in our industry are here to stay.”
Danielle Sheard, Global Head of Publications and Client Engagement, Costello Medical
The Importance of Data
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the public more engaged than ever with scientific data. The public now have a greater thirst for information, so it is important that they can easily access this from trustworthy sources.
Role of the Publication Professional
Careful management is required to ensure that the public are not overwhelmed with information and that the potential risks of data misinterpretation are considered.
As publication professionals, we need to do all we can to provide the public with the information that they desire in an understandable and accessible format, by using appropriate communication channels.
Key Considerations for Publication Planning
The specific audience of each publication needs to take centre-stage during publication planning to ensure these aspects are met. Practical recommendations to achieve this include:
Have open discussions about data presentation with authors prior to publication development
Research preferred platforms your audience use to source their information and use this insight to maximise reach
Utilise readability scores to ensure both language and writing style are appropriate for your audience
Patient Centricity at the Forefront
Patient centricity across the pharmaceutical industry has never been more important. Patients should be involved from the start of the clinical development process to ensure that the research objectives and study endpoints defined in clinical trial protocols are relevant to meet their needs.
Patient Centricity in Practice
Increased involvement of patients will encourage the consideration of health equality within the pharmaceutical industry. Exclusion criteria for entry to clinical trials often result in a non-representative patient population, and outcomes for patients with disabilities are commonly under-reported.
Data from clinical development programmes, and the wider industry, need to be communicated in an accessible way to patients to ensure their engagement and understanding.
Patient involvement will facilitate a deeper understanding of study and publications processes, thereby building trust and empowering patients. Partnerships between patient organisations and the pharmaceutical industry provide a key way to facilitate and drive this.
Key Considerations for Publication Planning
Develop content with patients, or representatives of the target audience, to ensure that all materials are understandable and relevant
Communicate with patients on their preferred channels, whether that is via patient organisations or social media, to ensure maximum accessibility
Consider the compliance issues around patient involvement carefully from the outset; with transparency being of utmost importance
Optimising Content for Busy Healthcare Professionals
In 2020, healthcare professionals faced more time pressures than ever before. As these pressures are expected to remain, publication professionals have a responsibility to support the development of easily accessible materials that are appropriate for busy healthcare professionals.
The inclusion of video abstracts, podcasts and infographics, to accompany manuscripts and posters, can help to improve the impact and accessibility of publications. Enhanced content is now easier to publish than ever before, with publishers taking steps to ensure these materials are peer-reviewed and open access.1,2
Key Considerations for Optimising Content
Discuss whether these additional materials would be suitable during the early stages of publication planning
Tailor the content to the audience, to ensure that the extra investment increases reach
Track the metrics and impact of these materials to quantify whether they are utilised and valued by readers
Responsibilities for Publication Professionals in 2021 and Beyond
Moving forwards, publication professionals must make it their mission to put all of the abovementioned considerations into practice in order to truly realise the potential of such a rapidly evolving medical communications landscape.
Publication Planning and Scientific Writing Amidst the “Infodemic” of Modern Times…
Encourage patient involvement at early stages of publication planning to:
- Influence study design and endpoint selection
- Understand which data and outcomes are most relevant and informative to include in publications
Upskill in presenting real-world and qualitative data in meaningful ways that:
- Allow quick interpretation and understanding
- Facilitate pooling of outcomes across studies, with potential future application of artificial intelligence
Simplify and ensure clarity in our writing by:
- Aligning key results with what is truly important to the reader
- Conveying direct and digestible messaging with quality and quantity considered
- Balancing technical and lay language throughout publications – plain language summaries alone do not provide a full solution!
Journal Selection “Beyond the Impact Factor”…
Many pharmaceutical companies commit to publishing in open access journals. Authors should be encouraged to target open access journals, where articles are published under a CC BY licence, to increase accessibility for the intended audience.
Engage in open and transparent conversations about the type and quality of data, the expected audience and the purpose of publishing the data; how and to whom are the study outcomes relevant and meaningful?
Understand the target audience; are they a healthcare professional, a patient, or the general public?
Consider which content format would be most suitable for them, such as a traditional article, infographic or video-audio summary
Scope relevant journals based on subject matter, readership and content formats offered
Present the journal and enhanced content options if applicable. Provide suggestions to authors at project outset