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Meeting report: summary of Day 1 of the 2023 ISMPP European Meeting

The 2023 European Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) was held in London on 24–25 January. The first in-person European Meeting since 2020, themed ‘Fueling Creativity’, saw a record 360 delegates in attendance.

A summary of the first 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.

A summary of the second day of the meeting can be found here.

Summaries of Day 1

Chair’s Welcome & ISMPP Presidential Address


  • ISMPP membership and the number of CMPP™ certification holders is growing; members of our profession should embrace creative approaches to help ensure that scientific messages reach stakeholders such as time-poor HCPs.

Rob Pilbrow (Chair of the ISMPP European Programme Committee; Syneos Health Communications) opened the meeting by welcoming attendees, thanking ISMPP and the meeting sponsors and exhibitors, and noting the donation made to the Science Art Writing Trust on behalf of the meeting faculty. Pilbrow emphasised the record-breaking number of meeting delegates, abstract submissions, and poster presentations this year. Introducing the meeting theme, Pilbrow highlighted the value of creative approaches in our industry, and noted that the meeting would explore the science of creativity and how to implement creative approaches to reach novel solutions.

Next up, Ann Gordon (Secretary of the ISMPP Certification Board; CMC Affinity) gave an update on the Certified Medical Publication Professional™ (CMPP™) programme. Gordon highlighted the growing number of CMPPs, exceeding 1,570 following certifications in March 2022. CMPPs are now represented across 4 continents, and individuals from several new countries gained certification in 2022. Gordon reviewed recent and upcoming changes to the CMPP™ programme, with the new 5-year certification cycle (for those certifying from 2022), an updated exam blueprint, and expansion of the valued CMPP™ Mentor Programme.

Rob Matheis (ISMPP President and CEO) then gave the leadership update. Matheis emphasised the importance of medical publication professionals, noting that publications underpin many pharmaceutical company operations, but also increasingly reach external stakeholders directly (such as healthcare professionals [HCPs], patients, caregivers, and payers). While over time, the focus has shifted from publication quantity to impact, the foundation of the profession has remained the same – albeit with an unprecedented need for ethical, credible, and timely scientific communication. Medical publication professionals are now not only responsible for peer reviewed publications, but must implement other approaches to effectively deliver medical information to stakeholders such as time-poor HCPs. Looking to the meeting theme, Matheis noted that meeting these information needs means that we need to be creative, capturing attention to ensure that scientific messages are seen and read by intended audiences. Matheis shared some examples of how attendees could induce a creative mood state, such as through listening to music or movement, and highlighted how one creative success can lead to another. In closing, Matheis noted that ISMPP was thriving, with a steadily growing membership, and reflected on key successes in 2022, including the roll-out of the ISMPP Authorship Algorithm. In 2023, ISMPP will continue to focus on innovations in the industry, while helping to ensure that new members of the profession and smaller companies are equipped with the tools they need to deliver ethical, credible, and effective medical communications.

Fireside chat: blazing a trail to successful patient partnerships in publications


  • Patient partners can add value throughout the publication process.
  • Establishing criteria, tools, checklists and templates may be helpful for the development of PLS.

In this session, moderator Dawn Lobban (Envision the Patient) and speakers representing patients (Trishna Bharadia [The Spark Global]) and the pharmaceutical industry (Catherine Skobe [Pfizer], Jamie Griffin [BMS] and Avishek Pal [Novartis]) explored three ways of partnering with patients in publications:

  1. Involving patients in the planning of publications.
  2. Working with patients as co-authors.
  3. Incorporating plain language summaries (PLS) into publications.

Skobe described Pfizer’s Patient Collaborative Board, which was set up with the mission of actively engaging patients throughout the publication process, and with the purpose of ensuring patients are collaborators and partners. Important issues that were considered during the formation of the board included expanding demographic diversity and geographic reach, creating a ‘terms of requirement’ charter, and paying patients fair market value for their involvement. Notable achievements of the board to date include involvement in voicing the case for open access at Pfizer; and the development of a 3-year plan for the board.

Recognising that resource limitations might preclude smaller pharma companies from being able to emulate Pfizer’s undertaking, Skobe provided some smaller scale suggestions:

  • Listen to patients to understand their needs.
  • Involve at least 1 patient to advise on the development of processes for working with patients.
  • Share the view of patient advocates across the organisation: it is much more meaningful to hear from patients directly than indirectly via company members.

Next up, Bharadia began by making recommendations related to the practical aspects of involving patients in publications. “Be open to all the different ways that patients can be involved” was her first recommendation, which was well illustrated by the multitude of roles that Bharadia has held in the patient engagement arena. Secondly, Bharadia advised thinking about who you’re involving: while the patient voice includes caregivers, family members, and patient group representatives, only patients have direct lived experience of their condition. Thirdly, appreciate that not all patients are the same in terms of their skills, expertise, knowledge, and experience: their suitability for and needs for support with involvement in publications vary accordingly.

While the patient voice includes caregivers, family members, and patient group representatives, only patients have direct lived experience of their condition.

Bharadia went on to highlight ways in which patients meet International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) authorship criteria, and also provided the following recommendations to facilitate their authorship:

  • Patients can meet criterion 1 by helping to design studies that are patient-centred, with relevant patient-reported outcomes and quality-of-life measures.
  • Patients can meet criterion 2 by ensuring that the work identifies and prioritises aspects of their condition that are relevant and important to patients, and that the work is easy for patients to understand.
  • In order to meet criterion 3, patients should be allowed sufficient time to review the whole publication.
  • With respect to criterion 4, patients should recognise that they don’t need to be an expert in every area, but they should trust the contributions of their co-authors and have a good understanding of the peer review process.

Bharadia concluded with invaluable insights into working optimally with patients on publications:

  • Maintain flexibility in terms of the timing and frequency of meetings, the required format of comments and by allowing offline and online review.
  • Create the right environment for patients so they feel comfortable to speak up, without feeling judged.
  • Direct patients to helpful resources, eg Workgroup of European Cancer Patient Advocacy Networks (WECAN), Envision the Patient.
  • Remember that agreements aren’t one-way; patients should be empowered to ask for changes.
  • Make opportunities for partnerships equitable by providing compensation for time spent working on and presenting research.

In the final part of this session, Griffin described how BMS has implemented PLS across their publications, with the ultimate aim of improving patient care. Formerly, no clear policy existed at BMS with regards to PLS: they were developed only where the journal allowed or required a PLS; there was variable expertise in the agencies involved in writing PLS; and there was variability in the budgets for PLS. Now, BMS have clearly defined criteria around the development of PLS, which state that they should:

  • be developed following prospective identification in the publication plan
  • be open access
  • provide a summary of a single publication
  • accompany the original manuscript (where feasible).

The criteria have built-in flexibility, allowing the development of PLS for other publications where journals or congresses allow or require one.

Legal and Compliance may push back on the development of PLS, prompted by concerns that they constitute direct advertising to patients. Defining the broad audience for PLS, which extends beyond patients, can help to achieve buy-in, Griffin noted.

Audiences for PLS include:

  • time-poor specialists/generalists
  • payors/policy makers
  • HCPs with English as a second language
  • allied HCPs
  • lay audience (including patients and carers).

BMS has developed a comprehensive implementation pack consisting of tools, checklists, and templates, which has been a big help for publication leads and reviewers. Finally, the formation of expert patient panels to review PLS has been “immensely useful”, culminating in the development of the following list of elements that PLS should include:

  • explanation of patient demographics
  • infographics
  • a link to the original article
  • section headings to break up the text
  • anticipated side effects
  • phonetic spelling of drug names
  • empathetic tone/content
  • links to additional resources and details for patients who want to explore the topic further.

Keynote: Effective creative thinking for success


  • Embracing creativity in medical publications should enhance their impact.
  • New ideas frequently emerge from combinations of existing thoughts.
  • Creativity can be practiced to build on and improve our innate abilities.

Duncan Stevens (creativity consultant and founder of The Influence Association), set out to demonstrate the importance of creative strategies in the field of medical publications and the wider medical communications sphere. He opened his presentation by asserting that while ideas are important, it is also crucial to be able to persuade others to act on those ideas.

The importance of creativity

Stevens outlined several ways in which creativity can be useful in medical publications:

  • to bridge the gap between traditional publications and medical communications
  • to create impact beyond the mundane
  • to allow our communications to cut through the noise, inspiring readers to take action
  • to promote growth and innovation.

Stevens emphasised that creativity is innate in all people, but that to embrace it fully, we must train and develop our creativity like a muscle. One way to do this is by building fun into our daily routines, with playful behaviour often allowing more creative thoughts to emerge.

Creativity springs from a combination of curiosity, enthusiasm and courage.

Ideas arise from other ideas

Stevens highlighted that the best ideas often build on other existing ideas. When brainstorming, we should change our approach, aligning ourselves with the original meaning of the word Abracadabra – “I will create as I speak”. It is important to try to gather as many ideas as possible as quickly as possible. In this way, we can start to ‘stack’ the ideas to build something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Successful idea creation and development requires several different phases:

  • Preparation: firstly, we must gather information on what we want to change, asking ourselves what the problem is and what is wrong with our current solutions. This should ideally involve collaboration with others both inside and outside our own organisation to increase the breadth of understanding.
  • Incubation: once we are armed with understanding, we can pause to let our subconscious take over. Ideas often emerge when we are partially focused on another activity, such as showering or running. Success can be increased by incubating insights in multiple minds at the same time – eg, across a team.
  • Illumination: otherwise known as the “Eureka!” or “Aha!” moment, where the solution to the problem suddenly appears in the forefront of our minds.
  • Evaluation: once an idea is formed, it is necessary to interrogate it to consider its value as a solution to the initial problem.
  • Verification: the final stage in the process, where the idea is released and tested by a wider community.

Every failure is a step in the pathway to eventual success.

Finding time for creativity

Stevens asserted that the most significant obstacle to creativity (or at least the most cited) is a lack of time. He suggested that we can increase our creative time by modifying our meeting plans – shortening meetings to ensure adequate focus and inviting only those who are necessary to the objectives. In addition, we should apply the POST principle to maximise the efficiency of meetings, ensuring that each calendar entry has a purpose, objective, structure, and timeframe.

Stevens concluded with the thought that as humans we are all the same, but also different. Creativity in its essence is perception: by changing the way we perceive the world, we can also increase our creative powers.

Roundtable sessions

Attendees then had the opportunity to participate in roundtables, which covered the following topics:

  • Enhanced content: what, when and how?
  • Applying artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics to unstructured scientific content to discover new data and drive value
  • Creating consistent communication through effective scientific communication platform socialisation
  • Diversity, equity & inclusion in medical research and publishing: what does it look like?
  • GPP: fueling the fire of PLS
  • How can we foster publications on patient engagement initiatives? A multistakeholder perspective
  • Clear and present data: how to increase the impact and reach of your medical publications with data visualisation
  • Much ado about access
  • Copyright and licensing dos and don’ts
  • Innovating to improve sustainability in medical communications
  • The art of incorporating the patient voice for inclusive medical communications
  • How AI can increase accessibility and compliance of medical publications: generating PLS
  • The driving force of creativity in publications.

The publication professional’s guide to trends and challenges in evidence generation


  • Utilising RWE and understanding the patient voice is challenging but important for patient-centric healthcare.
  • Publication plans should incorporate RWE in efficient and smart ways, utilising technologies in a safe and ethical manner.
  • New sources should be considered to gather valuable insights and the patient voice should be incorporated from the outset.

The RWE explosion: benefits and challenges

Sreeram Ramagopalan (Industry Representative in Access Evidence) kick-started this session, noting that the publication of real world evidence (RWE) studies on PubMed has increased from 10 articles in 2009 to 3,000 in 2021. Ramagopalan highlighted that randomised controlled trials (RCTs), the gold standard for benefit-risk assessment of a treatment, have inherent disadvantages given the controlled environment with strict patient population criteria that aren’t always reflective of the disease population or clinical setting. Therefore, RWE is valuable and important in addressing questions that cannot be answered by RCTs, essentially filling information gaps needed to improve healthcare and inform guidelines and policies.  Questions that might be addressed through RWE include:

  • Is there an unmet need?
  • How are drugs being used in the real world?
  • What are the prescribing and ultilisation patterns?
  • What are the safety concerns in a real-world setting?
  • How does the effectiveness of a drug compare with others in a particular therapy area?
  • What are the benefits to patients, including a deep dive into patient-meaningful outcomes?

RWE is valuable and important in addressing questions that cannot be answered by RCTs, essentially filling information gaps needed to improve healthcare and inform guidelines and policies.

Ramagopalan noted that regulatory bodies such as the FDA and Health Technology Assessment agencies actively seeking or mandating RWE inclusion in regulatory submissions has resulted in a drive towards RWE studies. Ramagopalan highlighted the importance of publications in showcasing the validity of data, as well as the robustness of methodology, so that assessment bodies can confidently make decisions based on the RWE provided to them.

Understanding the patient experience: what, why, and how

The next speaker was Alex Morton (MEDiSTRAVA) who gave the audience a whistlestop tour of what patient experience means, why it is important, and how to go about collating insightful information. Morton noted that patient experience could include the following aspects:

  • What are the signs and symptoms experienced by patients and how do these impact quality of life?
  • Do symptoms change over time and how do patients feel about this?
  • What are patients’ expectations from current as well as potential treatments?
  • How does a patient’s view impact their treatment and disease outcomes?
  • How has treatment burden influenced overall patient experience?
  • For trial participants, what is the burden of participating in clinical trials?

The patient experience must be exploratory in nature rather than validating one’s own assumptions, and the patient voice must be incorporated as early as possible, as opposed to fulfilling a box-ticking exercise.

Gathering information on the patient experience must be exploratory in nature rather than validating one’s own assumptions, and the patient voice must be incorporated as early as possible, as opposed to fulfilling a box-ticking exercise. Morton also highlighted that diversity and inclusion are important when gathering patient insights. Factors such as patient knowledge, skills, and confidence are all factors that will affect views and experiences and should be borne in mind when designing methods or approaching patients. Patient insights should be gathered in a variety of ways, including using qualitative and quantitative methods, and digital/virtual and face-to-face formats. Leveraging social media and AI could reveal key areas of unmet need and inform strategies and publication planning.

The discussion then shifted to the importance of collaborating with patient advisory groups as well as caregivers to gain key insights. However, this is not an easy task:

  • Establishing relationships with advocacy groups and identifying the right patient partners is time-consuming.
  • Scepticism about the pharma industry is a barrier to building mutual trust.
  • Requests to participate can be overwhelming, given huge ‘competition’ for patient involvement in many disease areas.
  • It can be challenging to engage with some hard-to-reach patient groups to gain diverse, inclusive perspectives.

Nevertheless, incorporating the patient voice from the very early stages of a clinical study is important and beneficial to the study quality.

Evidence emerging from innovative technologies

The final speaker of the session, Tove Holm-Larsen (Silvi/Ghent Universitet) discussed how innovative technologies can help to close the gap between clinical trial efficacy and real  world effectiveness.

Holm-Larsen strives to optimise evidence-based medicine using Big Data and AI. Along with her collaborators, Holm-Larsen founded the “Evidensbaseret Medicin 2.0” group, which comprises 3 scientific projects: HedaX, OSCAR and

  • HedaX aimed to develop a digital platform to collect and exchange health data securely and ethically from various sources (eg government databases, social security registries, and real world data collected from patients using apps and wearables) to enable combined information to inform personalised healthcare. Holm-Larsen noted that 2 ongoing pilot projects in cancer and bipolar disorder are at finalisation stages.
  • OSCAR is intended to be a one-stop shop for clinical research, where one could “buy a data analysis”, helping to implement modern data-driven healthcare.
  • The goal of ai is to speed up the collection and analysis of published data to enable efficient creation of systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Is a picture worth a thousand words? Using creative approaches to address literacy and accessibility of scientific information: a patient perspective


  • Co-creation of scientific materials with patients is the key to accessible and useful resources for lay audiences.

This session, moderated by Susan Daniels (Lumanity), was derived from a member proposal and explored patient perspectives on how creative approaches can address the challenges of developing scientific materials for lay audiences.

Sharing scientific information with the public and the patients: the need and the challenge

Jan Geissler (Patvocates) opened the session by emphasising the information gap for lay audiences and the huge demand from patient communities to understand the science behind their diseases, available treatments, and ongoing clinical trials. He added that the information gap is especially wide for patients with rare diseases, where lack of information and late or incorrect diagnoses can increase stigma and information inequity.

Health literacy is the ability of individuals to access, understand, and use health information to support their own (or their loved ones’) health, and in people with cancer it has been correlated with care experiences and quality of life. However, Geissler presented findings that almost half of respondents in a European survey had limited or inadequate health literacy. Traditional peer reviewed scientific publications are comprehensive and accurate sources of medical information, but medical communications professionals need to ensure that scientific content is accessible and has a clear message for lay audiences.

“Scientific publications offer a valuable source of information…but only if people are able to find, view and understand them.” – Jan Geissler

Geissler closed by emphasising that time to access information is a key concern for patients and that working with patients from an early stage will help ensure effective information dissemination.

Engaging patients in the process: does the audience know best?

Graeme Johnston (Patient Focused Medicines Development) continued by discussing the needs of lay audiences from his perspective as a patient, and echoed Geissler’s sentiment that it was uplifting to see this topic as a focus of the meeting. He emphasised that while patients may not know ‘best’, their unique perspectives and lived experiences are vital and should be captured through co-creation of scientific materials. He noted that lay medical communications should:

  • be clear, interesting, and accessible
  • give the reader the ability to delve deeper
  • be from a reputable source
  • include striking visuals, and be attention grabbing.

Using a PLS example, Johnston demonstrated how to co-create. The process starts with selecting the correct patients to involve based on their experience and language skills. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly stated upfront and co-creation should be continued throughout the development process, with special consideration regarding the clarity of briefs and accessibility of documents. A two-way feedback process is key to allow patients to see how their input is used. Finally, Johnston reminded everyone to appropriately acknowledge patient contributors and remember to share the approved version with them.


“We need to be more creative in how we approach discussions with patients to create resources that are of use.” – Graeme Johnston

Johnston referred to free resources on engaging patents in medical publications, including an open access course from WECAN, and the Patient Engagement Management Suite, which provide good practice guides, toolkits, training materials, and how-to-guides.

Using creativity to improve accessibility of scientific information

Richard Lee (Lumanity) echoed the meeting theme with his insights on creative solutions to generate accessible scientific information. He defined creativity as the ability to be different in a useful way, and reminded the audience to ensure this utility is not forgotten when developing lay materials.

Lee echoed Johnston’s point on the importance of getting feedback from the end user throughout the process, and provided examples of how to address potential accessibility barriers for patients:

  • Visual (eg colour blindness) – use a contrast checker to ensure all elements are clearly visible; provide screen readers as per Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
  • Motor/mobility (eg motor impairment, arthritis) – make sure users do not have to scroll too much to view the information they need.
  • Auditory (eg hearing difficulties) – use captions on presentations and provide transcripts.
  • Cognitive (eg dyslexia, sleep deprivation) – use columns, subheading, and icons as visual aids, with large font sizes; avoid justified text.

Daniels summarised this session by encouraging attendees to “find their fuel” when developing medical communications:

  • Find your audience.
  • Understand their needs.
  • Engage in co-creation.
  • Lead by example.

Why not also read our summary of Day 2 of the meeting?


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.


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