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Meeting report: summary of day 3 of the 2019 ISMPP Annual Meeting

Annual banner featured image 1The 15th Annual Meeting of ISMPP was held in National Harbor on 15–17 April. A summary of the key plenary sessions from the third day of the meeting is provided below to benefit those who were unable to attend, and as a timely reminder of the key topics for those who did. The plenary sessions on day three of the meeting focused on effective scientific communication, patient involvement in healthcare decision making and future US federal policies on data usage and healthcare.

The summary of day one of this meeting can be found here. The summary of day two of this meeting can be found here.

Science not communicated is science not done

In this session, Melissa Marshall (Present Your Science/Melissa Marshall Consulting) provided her tips on giving successful scientific presentations. Marshall identified 3 key ingredients to create engaging ‘audience centric’ presentations: audience focus, information filtering and visual formatting. Taking these elements and combining them with a strong story flow and passion for the subject creates an engaging presentation that is easily digestible.

Further elaborating on the need to focus on audience needs, Marshall emphasised how speakers should interpret rather than present data, informing on what the information means, why it is important, and what further questions its raises. Content should also be accessible, interspersed with points of common ground to appeal to a wide range of technical backgrounds and employing plain language instead of jargon, technical terms or a multitude of abbreviations. Filtering extraneous detail to leave only the most important information for the audience allows for the key takeaway message to be clearly conveyed.

Finally, Marshall emphasised that the use of appealing visual formatting is a critical component for maintaining audience engagement. Scientific communicators were urged to leave behind the bulleted Powerpoint slide template of the 1980s and move towards to a more graphic style. Marshall explained that audiences are more likely to recall images than text and visual presentation generates deeper learning. Recall is doubled by including a mixture of words and relevant images. Consequently, words should be used concisely to emphasise key messages only.

To see Melissa Marshall’s TED talk on presenting complex scientific ideas to a general audience, see here. Further tips from Marshall on communicating science can be found here.

The power of the patient: update from the FDA patient engagement advisory committee

We are entering an era of ‘patient-centered’ medicine in which patients and their care partners participate actively in decision-making and priority-setting about all aspects of healthcare. Chinyelum Olele (United States Public Health Service) explained that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes that patients can and should bring their own experiences to bear in helping the Agency define meaningful benefits or unreasonable risks for certain new devices. In an effort to help drive a more patient-centred healthcare development process, the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological health (CDRH) has set up a Patient Engagement Advisory Committee (PEAC). The PEAC is currently investigating ways to engage with patients and caregivers to gain their perspective on current issues or the benefit-risk profile for devices, to raise or confirm problems that may exist with specific medical devices and to hear treatment preferences.

The PEAC will ensure that patients’ needs and experiences are considered in the FDA’s review of medical devices by conducting open public hearings, roundtable discussions and polling. The aim is to overcome perceived barriers to patient engagement such as the legal implications of involving patients, regulatory concerns, and the need to protect privacy and proprietary information. Olele mentioned that including patients in the design and conduct of medical device clinical investigations is seen as an important way to improve patient recruitment and retention, avoid missing data, and ensure that studies capture data on the outcomes that are important to patients.

To find out more about PEAC, please see here.

Health policy and Washington: three trends that matter to medical communications

In the final session, Jon Bigelow (Coalition for Healthcare Communication) provided his thoughts on the key US government health policy trends that are likely to impact on medical communications. Privacy and data protection, controlling healthcare costs, and FDA modernisation were key themes of Bigelow’s presentation.

Following a flurry of highly publicised cases of inappropriate data usage, there is increasing public interest over who is held accountable for the collection, use and storage of data. The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is seen as a leader in the move towards consent-based, opt-in data collection. However, concerns have been raised that lengthy and abstruse terms and conditions prevent truly informed consent by the user to share data. In the USA, the Privacy for America initiative plans to introduce new federal regulation of data privacy; however, it was noted that the resulting policy may take a different approach to that of the EU GDPR or state-level interventions such as the California Consumer Privacy Act.

With healthcare spending accounting for a large chunk of the USA gross domestic product each year, there is an accompanying demand for health care costs to be reduced. As part of this process, the FDA is actively encouraging new approaches to streamline research and drug approvals. One such example is the CREATES Act (Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples) which aims to accelerate the entry of generic drugs and biosimilars. Other strategies under discussion include the enforced disclosure of drug list prices in television drug advertising, but as Bigelow highlighted, this may be misleading since these prices often do not reflect the true amount paid. An alternative proposal would be to publish list prices plus typical costs on a central website. Moves to ban direct-to-consumer advertising or remove the tax benefits of marketing expenses for pharmaceutical companies have also been met with criticism, since this is an important channel of information between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners and patients. Nevertheless, there appears to be cross-party agreement on the need to reduce healthcare spending and a bipartisan agreement may be brought to pass. The wider ramifications for actions taken by the US government were emphasised, with the possibility that any measures to control drug costs may have an indirect effect on health communications.

Bigelow then provided a review of Scott Gottlieb’s tenure at the FDA (who stepped down as Commissioner in April 2019). Some modernising ideas that were put forward during this time were the design of clinical trial protocols that examine multiple therapies in a single disease or a single therapy in multiple diseases (in an effort to streamline research), and enthusiasm for the utilisation of real-world evidence (including in supporting revisions to product labelling).

Finally, Bigelow stated that it is up to the medical communications’ community to be proactive in (1) remaining alert to shifting rules, policies and expectations, (2) stating our value to the healthcare system, (3) emphasising our ethical work, and (4) letting Washington hear our voices. He finished by mentioning that the Coalition for Healthcare Communication is an organisation that supports industry and government efforts to ensure that healthcare professionals and consumers have access to quality health information and to foster industry-supported information that is ethical and of high quality.

The summary of day one of this meeting can be found here. The summary of day two of this meeting can be found here. To find out more about the ISMPP Annual Meeting, please see the ISMPP website. Additionally, a highlights video of the event can be found here.


Summary by Ryan Woodrow BSc, CMPP from Aspire Scientific


With thanks to our sponsors, Aspire Scientific Ltd and NetworkPharma Ltd

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