The 18th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) took place in Washington, DC on 9-11 May and was themed ‘Future-Ready Medical Communications’. This year, 595 attendees participated in the meeting, which was held in-person for the first time since 2019.
The meeting covered a range of topics through thought-provoking and engaging keynote addresses, oral presentations, interactive sessions and roundtables. A summary of the afternoon sessions from the second day of the meeting is provided below to benefit those who were unable to attend the meeting, and as a timely reminder of the key topics covered for those who did.
Summaries of the afternoon sessions on Day 2
Navigating our connected world: social media guidance for now and in the future
- The technology industry is fast-paced and the communications landscape will continue to evolve, but regulatory bodies are unlikely to keep up in terms of social media guidance. It is imperative that companies adapt to use social media appropriately and effectively.
Social media use in healthcare communications is increasing, and could be utilised to boost the impact of health research or positively impact pharma-related activities such as patient experience, clinical practice, and scientific meetings. However, social media guidance from regulatory bodies is lagging behind technological advances, leaving some companies hesitant to engage. The afternoon of Day 2 opened with a session presented by Dale Cooke (PhillyCooke Consulting), exploring the current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for social media communications and how guidance may change in the future.
The FDA first released draft social media guidance in 2014 – many years after social media had gathered pace – and has since released draft guidelines that address various topics including Twitter, misinformation, regulatory requirements for post-marketing submissions, and unsolicited off-label requests. Despite the seemingly slow pace of regulatory guidance, Cooke views it as a positive – the FDA and other regulatory bodies do not need to change as fast as the technology industry, and a stable regulatory framework is important. If regulatory guidelines are constantly changing, healthcare industry practices would have to continually evolve to meet fluctuating requirements. The slow release of social media guidance from the FDA/regulatory bodies enables greater stability within the pharmaceutical industry.
Cooke moved on to discuss the accommodations that the FDA has made over time to enable companies to actively engage with social media. One such example involves post-marketing filing guidance: rather than requiring real-time notification of online engagement and real-time conversations, the FDA will allow a 30-day notification window. This accommodation enabled companies to start having real-time (online) conversations while meeting filing obligations (regulations regarding first use/publication). In addition, existing guidelines on providing balanced safety and efficacy information were modified to allow abbreviated information on drugs to be shared on social media. Another important change was the use of links to meet certain requirements – for example, it is acceptable to provide a hyperlink to the prescribing information on social media posts, rather than including the full document.
Despite these changes, Cooke noted that the FDA has not been willing to abandon regulatory requirements:
- Companies must file real-time communication venues (ie where the conversations are happening – website URLs, for example). The filing does not have to be immediate, but the required paperwork must be completed.
- All life-threatening risk information must be supplied. This can make social media use unfeasible in certain instances.
- Pertaining particularly to Twitter, as the FDA guidance notes, “If an accurate and balanced presentation of both risks and benefits of a specific product is not possible within the constraints of the platform, then the firm should reconsider using that platform…”.
Regulatory guidance on scientific exchange (about off-label uses or use of products not yet approved for any indication) is yet to be released, despite the FDA creating a docket in 2011 (which is still open). However, in 2017, the FDA published a memo that stated off-label promotion was never appropriate.
Cooke ended the session with a recap of the current situation: that the FDA will accommodate certain social media activities, but they will not adopt an ‘anything goes’ approach, including off-label promotion. Cooke emphasised that future FDA guidance (when it is released) may be significant but is unlikely to be revolutionary. As healthcare will always be a topic of concern and the communications landscape will continue to evolve, the industry must adapt and adopt social media and online tools.
As healthcare will always be a topic of concern and the communications landscape will continue to evolve, the industry must adapt and adopt social media and online tools.
Following the talk, a few questions from the audience were taken, which raised some further interesting points from Cooke:
- Every company has specific concerns, and all companies have their own approach, but some are engaging with social media. Small steps can be taken within the guidance to build momentum and confidence with the various platforms – for example, through YouTube or virtual online discussions using hashtags.
- There is a key distinction between ‘regulations’ and ‘guidance’: regulations are binding (legally enforceable), but the guidance is not. Guidance is instruction, help, and assistance for the industry on how to meet the regulatory requirements.
Working with digital thought leaders
- Digital opinion leaders are not just key opinion leaders with Twitter accounts. An understanding of why they are influential and how they interact with audiences is important for healthcare industry stakeholders considering engaging digital opinion leaders.
As far back as 8 years ago, key opinion leaders (KOLs) were sharing information via online platforms and the concept of thought leadership, in terms of social media, was starting to emerge. Social media provides the opportunity for one voice to reach many more people than traditional media – as a result, there has been a rise in the use of social media for scientific communications and an increase in digital opinion leaders (DOLs). In this session, Sarah Lochner Meuler (Avant Healthcare) explored the current and evolving trends in social media, the difference between KOLs and DOLs, and the benefits of engaging with DOLs.
In recent years, there has been a steady rise in the number of healthcare professionals (HCPs) who have been adopting social media platforms to communicate scientific information – to illustrate this, Lochner Meuler described a study of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting that revealed the use of Twitter by oncologists during the congress steadily rose between 2016 and 2020. Importantly, Lochner Meuler noted that such digital presence and engagement within the oncology community is lasting, as the impact of impressions versus absolute number of tweets continues to grow with a stakeholder’s follower count. Lochner Meuler explained that Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are the only platforms that allow data mining and, as such, can be utilised to measure the impact of social media. Closed platforms (eg LinkedIn) are growing in popularity, but these are more difficult to data mine – as such, it is difficult to assess analytics or track impact. While Twitter seems to be popular, Lochner Meuler noted that some oncologists are also using TikTok and Instagram to get their message across to people who might not otherwise be reached.
Digital engagement enabled the growth of small group conversations at medical conferences via social media, and the pandemic pushed more of the discourse online as congresses went virtual. Conversations that might previously have happened behind closed doors are now happening via social media. As a result, DOLs moved from the sidelines to major players during the pandemic, adopting social media to take on the role of thought leadership, and breaking down geographic barriers. Lochner Meuler noted that another key aspect of social media/digital thought leadership is that the conversations or materials are enduring. Twitter conversations are available online forever – even if tweets are taken down, the likelihood is that they have been screenshotted, shared, or retweeted.
DOLs moved from the sidelines to major players during the pandemic, adopting social media to take on the role of thought leadership, and breaking down geographic barriers.
Lochner Meuler went on to discuss the trend of authenticity in scientific communication. When examining why a particular person is trending/popular, it is usually because they are authentic and sincere – both attributes are valued by people, and that forms a key part of the appeal of DOLs. Although there are similarities between KOLs and DOLs, Lochner Meuler noted that each group is unique. A DOL is not just a KOL on Twitter, but they share a passion for educating others. Both are credible experts who want to share information – they are driven by a desire to make an impact for their colleagues and their patients. A key difference between the two is related to the marketing/social media training offered – large institutions and centres of excellence will often hire specialists to work with their KOLs and faculty members, which may lead to more publicity and donations. Some institutions recognise that DOLs value their authenticity and sincerity, so don’t have the same expectations around media/marketing training.
With regards to the specific attributes that make DOLs such good communicators, Lochner Meuler highlighted that they are content creators, content sharers, and engagers – they have significant followers and facilitate conversations. When engaging with DOLs to provide insight to scientific communities, it is essential to think about authenticity and credibility, and recognise that DOLs will adapt to the changing face of social media. In the future, the gap between KOLs and DOLs may decrease, as the DOLs become the next generation KOLs.
When engaging with DOLs to provide insight to scientific communities, it is essential to think about authenticity and credibility, and recognise that DOLs will adapt to the changing face of social media.
Data privacy in a social world
- Organisations looking to engage in social media need to understand worldwide trends in data collection and use, and to utilise social media in a way that protects them from security/privacy violations and builds trust.
“You can’t talk about social media technology without talking about data privacy and cyber security” according to Jordan Fischer (Beckage, Drexel University, and University of California, Berkeley), who gave this plenary session. Fischer, a data privacy, technology compliance, and cybersecurity expert, began with some definitions:
- data privacy – “leave me alone, let me control the processing of my data”
- data security – “keep my information safe from unauthorised use”.
Fischer noted that the two concepts are part of the same discussion, because keeping information safe is also about maintaining its privacy.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has prompted the development of privacy laws globally
The adoption of GDPR legislation in the EU in 2018 changed the international conversation about privacy, prompting massive growth in privacy laws. Many countries beyond the EU have privacy legislation including the UK, Brazil, China, Russia, India, United Arab Emirates, and Canada. The US does not have an all-encompassing federal privacy law, however, and is an outlier in this respect. In its absence, US states are creating their own data privacy laws, all with varying requirements for data collection and use. This means that many different layers of data privacy laws need to be considered when using social media in the US.
Many different layers of data privacy laws need to be considered when using social media in the US.
The implications of privacy legislation for social media
The use of algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning by social media applications to track users and target advertising to individuals has implications for user privacy. The EU is leading the way with regards to putting in place boundaries around the use of such technology to collect personal information. In Europe, an opt-in policy is generally in force when it comes to cookies, whereas in the US, website users need to opt out of data collection. When developing global marketing and strategy plans involving social media, organisations need to understand worldwide trends in the collection and use of data. Collecting information about users in Europe through social media cookies would likely yield little information, as very few people will allow cookie collection.
What does all this mean for the medical communications industry?
A key aspect of what the medical communications industry does is sharing information and trying to reach different audiences by engaging in discussion, social media, and the sharing of article links. However, organisations looking to engage in social media need to consider if there are privacy and/or security implications, and make sure they are using social media in a way that respects the privacy of the individual, protects organisations from security/privacy violations, and builds trust.
- Inclusive language guidelines could support medical publication professionals to adopt inclusive and respectful language to enhance representation and improve healthcare outcomes of under-represented groups.
- Biopharmaceutical companies are committing to and demonstrating progress towards reducing carbon footprints, by tackling emissions across supply chains.
Mary Gaskarth (CMC Affinity; Abstract Committee Chair) moderated the oral presentations session, which included talks on inclusive language in biomedical publishing and climate change commitments of leading pharmaceutical companies.
Promoting inclusive language in biomedical publishing
The first talk, given by Carolyn Farnsworth (MedThink SciCom), began by highlighting the barriers to healthcare faced by individuals and groups who have been historically marginalised. These barriers range from covert discrimination and care refusal to harassment: indeed, one study has shown that 73% of transgender respondents anticipated they would be treated differently by healthcare providers. The language we use can impact understanding of public and global health. For this reason, it is vital that medical publication professionals adopt inclusive and respectful language to enhance representation and improve healthcare outcomes of under-represented groups.
Recognising the importance of inclusive language as a force for change, Farnsworth presented the results of an analysis conducted to examine the requirements for and actual instances of inclusive terminology in biomedical publications. Results showed that just 7 of the 15 journals analysed in HIV/AIDS, reproduction, and psychology/psychiatry fields had only limited inclusive language recommendations for authors and, although many publications had begun to use more gender-inclusive language, consistent and thorough guidelines for language usage are still needed.
Farnsworth concluded her talk with a call to develop a standardised set of inclusive language guidelines for medical publication professionals, developed by a diverse expert group, to advance equity in biomedical research, and ultimately promote inclusive healthcare.
Farnsworth concluded her talk with a call to develop a standardised set of inclusive language guidelines for medical publication professionals…to advance equity in biomedical research and ultimately promote inclusive healthcare.
Climate change commitments of leading pharmaceutical companies and their implications for the supply chain
Amy Booth (University of Oxford) and Chris Winchester (Oxford PharmaGenesis) co-presented the second talk of this session. Sustainability strategies and climate change targets are an increasing focus for companies, including those in the healthcare sector, with recent data showing that healthcare contributes to 8.5% of US carbon emissions. In a bid to understand what the pharmaceutical industry is doing to reduce its carbon footprint, Booth and Winchester examined the climate change targets and sustainability strategies of the top 20 pharma companies, using sustainability tabs and recent company reports.
Results showed that 90% of the top 20 pharma companies have committed to improving reporting and reducing emissions across their supply chains. Various strategies have been adopted by companies to help reduce their carbon footprint, from redesigning packaging using sustainable, recycled materials to improving supply chain engagement through conferences and seminars. Encouraged by the availability of data and preliminary findings, Booth and Winchester remarked that these are promising signs that companies are taking up the carbon agenda. As a next step for the project, the future progress of companies towards meeting these targets will be monitored, and other industries in the healthcare supply chain will be investigated.
Various strategies have been adopted by companies to help reduce their carbon footprint, from redesigning packaging using sustainable, recycled materials to improving supply chain engagement through conferences and seminars.
Next up, attendees had the choice of 4 parallel sessions or a guided poster tour to attend.
Breaking tradition: publishing non-peer review
- Non-peer reviewed publications may be an appropriate option in certain situations, and can be successfully executed by following the same key rules and processes as for peer reviewed publications.
The first parallel session looked at non-peer reviewed publications. While peer reviewed publications are the long-established gold standard for informing clinicians about medical developments, other publication types have their merits, particularly for targeting broader audiences. Ana Bozas (Pear Therapeutics), Meredith Rogers (The Lockwood Group), and Charlotte Singh (Sanofi) shared learnings from their experiences with publishing non-peer reviewed materials.
There are many valid reasons for pursuing non-peer reviewed publications:
- to reach target audiences that do not read scientific journals
- to reach a broader audience not captured by traditional peer reviewed journals
- newsletters and magazines are a popular source of information for HCPs
- some medical information does not suit peer reviewed publications, such as surveys
- to release time-sensitive data without waiting for the peer review process
- if there are no suitable journals, based on readership or mission.
Indeed, many attendees revealed in a poll that they were contemplating, already embarking on, or had completed publishing in a non-peer reviewed platform.
Non-traditional or non-peer reviewed materials take many forms:
- white papers
- journal supplements
- trade and industry journals, such as Pharmacy Times
- podcasts (though some are peer reviewed)
Some reasons for choosing non-peer reviewed channels reflect potential challenges in the medical publishing industry:
- publishing negative results – the panellists noted it may be a struggle to find an interested peer reviewed journal
- no peer reviewers in the publication’s field, or a lack of available peer reviewers (as seen during the recent COVID-19 pandemic)
- publishing papers receiving ≥3 rejections from peer reviewed journals.
The panel presented 3 theoretical case studies to illustrate how non-peer reviewed materials can achieve particular publication aims.
Case study 1: to reach a target audience that does not read scientific articles
The first theoretical case study concerned a landmark study conducted in older patients. This study was published in a top-tier journal targeting physicians, but a publication platform was needed to inform nurses treating the indicated population about this development in the field. Problems with peer reviewed publication were considered:
- Repeat publication in a journal targeting nurses would be disallowed as a duplicate publication.
- Since the drug is not yet approved, involvement of medical science liaison (MSLs) would be disallowed as off-label promotion.
- A press release may not reach the target audience of nurses (or the second potential target audience of older patients).
The solution identified was to publish in a nurse-targeted newsletter, such as the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association newsletter. The first steps to achieve this would be to:
- Identify a nurse practitioner author for the article early in the process, to ensure that the author is engaged.
- Find out if the newsletter accepts industry-sponsored articles – if a nurse author is already onboard, they can reach out to the newsletter to gauge interest.
- Consider getting copyright permission from the original journal. Although the newsletter article will be substantially different from the original article, it is beneficial to ensure that there is no perception of copyright infringement.
- Obtain legal/compliance sign-off for the proposed type of article.
The panellists cautioned that the sponsor should not be tempted to start a first draft of the newsletter article to show the editor and the potential nurse author, highlighting that Good Publication Practice should still be followed for non-peer reviewed publications.
Good Publication Practice should still be followed for non-peer reviewed publications.
Case study 2: to reach a broader audience not captured by traditional peer reviewed journals
The second theoretical case study used the example of a small biotechnology company with a cutting-edge technology designed to break down access barriers and deliver treatment to underserved populations. Despite multiple peer reviewed publications of the supporting data, the non-traditional mode of therapy faced challenges of unfamiliarity and lack of acceptance by the scientific and patient communities. The company was interested in reaching a broad audience to raise product awareness and dispel common myths about the technology held by the public, clinicians, and payers.
Peer reviewed publishing options could consider a top-tier clinical journal, a payer/policy-focused journal, or a non-solicited review article in an open access, cross-functional journal such as the BMC series. Alternatively, a letter to a popular newspaper such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal could be considered. In this case, the most scientifically robust choice that would best achieve the publication aims would be a commentary article in a trade/industry journal, as pharmacists often act as KOLs regarding market access issues. For this case study, the suggested first steps were to contact the trade/industry journal editor to gauge interest and to consult compliance to gauge risk.
Case study 3: to achieve rapid dissemination of specific data
The third scenario was a safety need to publish specific dosing considerations for a mood-enhancing drug. The dose titration data from a Phase I/II trial were on file and needed to be published quickly. Standard peer reviewed targets such as clinical pharmacology journals would not reach the prescribing clinician audience. Equally, some exposure to the data could be achieved by reaching out to providers and pharmacists by adding “take with food” to the drug label, or enlisting MSLs to spread the word. In this instance, the best option was considered to be publishing the dosing schedule in a newsletter-type publication, utilising this flexible tool that can reach myriad target audiences, such as treating clinicians, primary care providers, pharmacists, and patient advocacy groups.
Newsletter-type publications are a flexible tool that can reach myriad target audiences, such as treating clinicians, primary care providers, pharmacists, and patient advocacy groups.
The panel noted that non-peer reviewed publications can be executed successfully by following the ‘golden rules’ for peer reviewed publications: ensuring transparency, writing with the target audience in mind, and getting buy-in from colleagues in medical, legal, and compliance.
Finally, the panel addressed some of the audience’s key concerns about non-peer reviewed publications:
- Liaison with legal/compliance departments is key to avoid misconceptions around pre-approval promotion.
- Although no digital object identifier (DOI®) is assigned to non-peer reviewed publications, the driving principle of these publication types is to get the data out there as needed, rather than to obtain a citable reference.
- Publishing in newsletters is more cost-effective if you write the article directly with authors (in-house or with an agency). Asking the newsletter editorial team to develop content can be costly, but this can help address concerns about a perceived promotional nature of content.
- The credibility of non-peer reviewed publications can be bolstered through the reputation of the authors, as well as by linking back to a peer reviewed article as the primary source.
Supercharge with social: tips for engaging experts and amplifying medical communications
- Social media platforms can be leveraged to amplify medical communications through appropriate engagement of digital experts.
The second parallel session examined how social media can be used in medical communications. Thomas Lechner (ONO Pharma), Paul Kaiser (Healthcare Consultancy Group), and Kristen Oeltjen-Bruns (Healthcare Consultancy Group) took attendees through current and evolving trends in the use of social media in scientific communications. The panellists considered how best to engage with HCPs on social media, asking what, how, who, and when?
The panellists raised that Twitter is one of the most popular platforms for the exchange of scientific information and news. One-year data from 2022 (from Meltwater) showed that cardiologists (24%), oncologists (14%), and neurologists (10%) had the highest social media use among medical specialists. The panellists also noted that the social media playing field is global, with other social media channels available and more commonly used in the Asia-Pacific region.
Several key considerations for effectively engaging experts on social media were shared:
- selecting the most relevant data, channel, and experts
- being aware of emerging social media guidance by medical specialty
- considering the language and tone of the social media post
- reviewing and executing based on client policies and processes
- monitoring and promptly responding to comments, with particular attention to comments that disclose adverse events, introduce misinformation, or present a credible data query.
Discussions highlighted the role of digital experts in medical communications, and considered when to engage with these experts for medical affairs and publication amplification. Panellists also gave their guidance on optimising social media channels to share publications.
Future ready: implications of HCP and patient/caregiver user design preferences for medical information
- When developing medical information materials, we must be open to what users really want, rather than what we assume they will want.
- Incremental innovation may be the best strategy to balance the benefits of new approaches with current patient/caregiver preferences for verbal or written text-based communications.
The third parallel session saw Marie-Ange Noue (EMD Serono), Evelyn DeSantis (phactMI), and Andrea Carroll Bullock (EMD Serono) take a thought-provoking look at how recent surveys of HCP and patient/caregiver preferences can inform the design of medical information for patients and caregivers.
Multiple formats for medical information are preferred
The practical utility of different formats of patient medical information was assessed in a February 2021 survey of 527 HCPs, which evaluated the likelihood of HCPs using different materials with their patients. The HCPs received examples of four types of material: infographics, traditional standard response document (SRD), navigable SRD, and visual SRD.
The HCPs strongly indicated they would use patient-focused materials in their work. Each of the formats was preferred by some HCPs, and there was no evident correlation between HCP demographics and their format preferences (eg younger HCPs did not have consistent preferences for digital formats). Navigable SRDs were the format preferred by the highest number of HCPs across all types of content (eg efficacy, pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics), but the HCPs wanted to have materials available in a variety of formats, highlighting that communication via multiple channels—an ‘omnichannel’ approach—is optimal.
The survey also found that HCPs’ perceptions of the trustworthiness of materials did not differ between the formats provided. It was noted, however, that legal and regulatory functions within pharmaceutical companies sometimes push back when medical information materials are highly visual, based on their perception that this may appear promotional. In terms of the speed of accessing and interpreting information, HCPs indicated the infographic format provided the quickest answers.
Be open to what the user really wants
In an April 2021 survey, 1,000 patients and caregivers were asked about their healthcare communications preferences. Patients preferred to receive medical information verbally from HCPs, followed by text formats with some graphics, with patients being familiar with and trusting these approaches. Differences in use and preference were noted, with patients/caregivers sometimes relying on medical information from television or print advertisements, despite this not being their preference.
The survey results indicated that HCP and patient/caregiver preferences may not be fully aligned – for example, neither patients nor caregivers were found to favour the infographic format. Overall, the survey results highlight the importance of being open to what the user really wants, rather than what we assume they should want, and to carefully consider what information can be provided and how, so as to assist with the patient journey.
The survey results highlight the importance of being open to what the user really wants, rather than what we assume they should want.
Balancing preferences and innovation
The presentations prompted lively discussion, including around how these results might change practice. Changes that have been implemented include a shift towards navigable SRDs that are simpler and less expensive than visual SRDs, and the inclusion of plain language summaries (PLS) within the SRD. Avoiding overly complex infographics was also discussed.
It was also questioned whether we should always follow patient preferences, as this might hamper innovation and the adoption of new approaches that might ultimately benefit patients and HCPs and, once users become familiar with the new format, become their preference. It was suggested that incremental innovation balancing current preferences with the benefits of new approaches may be the best strategy. Again, the omnichannel approach was highlighted as the best way to meet the various needs of different stakeholders, and to adapt to changing needs at different points in each patient’s journey.
Ask the CMPP™ experts: an interactive Q&A panel discussion
- The CMPP™ credential confirms expertise as a medical publication professional, and the programme continues to expand and provide new offerings.
This parallel session looked at the ISMPP Certified Medical Publication Professional™ (CMPP™) programme. The panel comprised Amy Foreman-Wykert (Amgen; ISMPP Certification Board), Dana Fox (Caudex; ISMPP Certification Board), Maya Shehayeb (Amgen; ISMPP CMPP™), and Megan Weigel (Bristol Myers Squibb; ISMPP Certification Board).
The session gave attendees an overview of the programme and answered questions on key topics, including:
- the value of the CMPP™ credential
- how to gain the CMPP™ credential, or recertify
- the CMPP™ Mentor Programme
- CMPP™ digital badges.
The panellists also shared insights into the future of the CMPP™ programme, with exciting offerings and resources on the horizon:
- a remote, online exam option coming soon
- a new, updated exam blueprint expected in 2023
- over 20 new self-study activities added
- a comprehensive update of the CMPP™ Mentor Programme
- plans for a continued flexible response to the pandemic (ie related to exam windows and recertification).
Guided poster tour: technology and digital features
In total, 50 posters were presented at the meeting, with abstracts published in a Current Medical Research and Opinion supplement. On this guided poster tour, attendees visited 3 posters on the theme of technology and digital features. The presenting authors are shown in bold:
- Which types of digital features have the most impact on article accesses? A pilot study – Niamh Clarke, Charley Lai, Hannah Payne, Caroline Halford.
- Evaluating video abstract visibility and content in peer-reviewed literature – Aarthi R Gobinath, Deirdre A Rodeberg, Ann K Overton, Rebecca E Slager, Jeffrey D Stumpf.
- Summarizing scientific publications: integrating AI into our daily work – Niina Nuottamo, Rosie Morland, Dan Smith, Remon van den Broek.
Attendees then had the opportunity to participate in roundtables, covering diverse topics:
- using the structured template for planning and reporting on the implementation of real world evidence studies (STaRT-RWE)
- applying systematic literature review methods and mindsets to scientific communication platform development and publication planning
- ask the publishers/editors
- improving internal efficiencies through a publication query intake form
- corporate and social responsibility expectations and implications
- congress virtual plenaries and their potential impact on publication planning
- ethics and compliance
- extending the reach of virtual scientific congress posters
- working with rare disease patients, advocates, and caregivers to advance medical publications
- medical affairs engagement with digital opinion leaders
- digital enhancements
- promoting inclusive language.
PLS impact stopwatch session
- Readily accessible PLS are valued by the public to help them make informed choices about their own health. Summaries should be developed in collaboration with patients and use a carefully considered format.
The final session of Day 2 was a ‘stopwatch’ session which brought together speakers from across the publishing industry and medical communications agencies. We heard from Kelly Soldavin (Taylor & Francis Group), Laura Dormer (Future Science Group), Adeline Rosenberg (Oxford PharmaGenesis), Hamish McDougall (Sage Publishing), Caroline Halford (ADIS│Springer Healthcare), and Amanda Boughey (Envision Pharma Group) about the what, why, who, when, where, and how for PLS.
PLS briefly summarise a piece of research using simple, accessible language for a non-specialist audience. Although PLS are often associated with peer reviewed journal publications, they can also be used to support a range of document types, from white papers to posters and grant proposals. Various formats can be used, with each affording different benefits: text-based formats are searchable via PubMed, whereas infographics, videos, and podcasts are often more engaging, but can be more difficult and time consuming to develop.
What the value of PLS is and why are they important?
Making health information more understandable is important to allow the public to make informed choices about their own health. Research shows that PLS are a valued resource and articles with an accompanying PLS are typically accessed more than those without. Patients are reaching out for this information via a range of channels. HCPs also want clear, digestible chunks of information to share with their patients.
Who’s who in PLS?
Writing in plain language is a real skill and increasingly, a specialist team of medical writers, creative services, and patients are all involved in writing and reviewing PLS. Patient Focused Medicines Development (PFMD) has published guides on how to involve patients as authors so that their important perspectives can be captured. The growing popularity of PLS is reflected in the commitment from several pharmaceutical companies to publish PLS. Furthermore, there is a rising demand to make PLS freely available to anyone who wants to read them, from specialists who are looking for bitesize information to advocates, patients, and their caregivers.
When should PLS be published?
A PLS should be published to accompany any research that, at some point, could impact public health. Indeed, conferences like the ASCO and European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) congresses have patient tracks for patient-centred research, for which the PLS is an important aspect. The speakers suggested introducing the PLS in the early publication planning stages and including them in the initial journal submission, since it is not always possible to add PLS at a later stage.
A PLS should be published to accompany any research that, at some point, could impact public health.
Where are PLS found and how are they accessed?
PLS are often found in journals as an accompaniment to articles, but can also be associated with congress abstracts and posters. However, the discoverability of PLS remains an issue since scientific research repositories and search engines may not be well-known amongst non-specialist audiences or have not been designed with this audience in mind. The Enhanced Publication Options Navigator, previously compiled by the Medical Publishing Insights & Practices (MPIP) initiative and now managed under the auspices of ISMPP, includes information on journals that publish PLS.
The stopwatch session concluded with a round-up of quick tips for quality PLS development:
- consult available guidelines and recommendations
- refer to journal/publisher guidance
- choose a format that meets the audience needs (consider text and infographic formats)
- include non-expert review and/or medical writer assistance
- confirm the PLS undergoes rigorous peer review
- publish the PLS alongside articles and ensure it is tagged with metadata
- ensure the PLS is freely accessible and collaborate with the publisher and/or authors to share it on social media.
In a question-and-answer session, the following key points were made:
- There is a growing body of evidence that supports the use of PLS and can encourage sponsors and authors who remain uncertain about PLS.
- Different PLS formats can have different impacts on the audience. Text-based and video abstracts are very impactful in terms of helping an audience to understand the research, whereas infographics can facilitate information retention. It is important to consider what is best for the audience and work backwards – sometimes this means taking a multi-channel approach.
- When selecting a journal, try to select those that accept PLS. If your usual choice of journal doesn’t accept PLS, try talking to the journal editor as accommodations can often be made, or consider a new journal or standalone options.
- Collaboration with patient advocacy groups and patient experts is important to ensure the right language level is used, and to help disseminate PLS.
Written as part of a Media Partnership between ISMPP and The Publication Plan, by Aspire Scientific, an independent medical writing agency led by experienced editorial team members, and supported by MSc and/or PhD-educated writers.