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Meeting report: summary of the afternoon of Day 2 of the 2023 ISMPP Annual Meeting

Reconvening once again in Washington, DC, the 19th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) took place from 24-26 April with the theme ‘Patients First’.

With a record-breaking 720 participants, the meeting theme explored the role of patients and patient advocates as collaborators in medical research and medical communications. Thought-provoking and engaging keynote addresses, oral presentations, interactive sessions, and roundtables addressed these topics, plus other issues relevant to medical publication and communications professionals.

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.

You can also read our summaries from Day 1 , the morning of Day 2, and Day 3

Summaries of the afternoon of Day 2


Strategic scientific communication planning in an omnichannel world: everything you wanted to know but didn’t dare ask


  • For a medical affairs audience, effective omnichannel communication requires the right content, through the right channel, at the right time.

Omnichannel communication is increasingly being used in medical affairs, where there is an important need to clearly communicate complex information to a diverse audience. Michael Exon (Adelphi) and Dominic Sloane (Excerpta Medica) presented this introductory session on omnichannel communication in the context of strategic scientific communication planning, focusing on what omnichannel means for medical affairs and the key elements of an omnichannel plan.

What does omnichannel mean for medical affairs?

The presenters highlighted that omnichannel communication cannot be performed in isolation, but instead requires cross-functional collaboration using a structured approach to take a unified view of an audience’s information needs and preferences. Compliant sharing of audience data between teams is key to optimising omnichannel communication programmes.

Exon and Sloane explained that the healthcare professional (HCP) learning journey is inherently self-led, personal, and omnichannel; thus, there is no single model that can be imposed on all HCPs, and HCP learning journeys are unique to each individual. Accordingly, we must reassess our relationship with the HCP learning journey to create journeys that deliver “the right content through the right channel at the right time”.

There is no single model that can be imposed on all HCPs, and HCP learning journeys are unique to each individual.

What might an omnichannel medical communications plan look like?

An audience-centric approach dictates that the first step is to define and segment the audience. For example, is the HCP looking for top-level summaries, do they want to read in depth, or would they prefer to do their own research on a particular topic? With this knowledge, reusable, modular content can be developed to meet the needs of each audience segment, which can then be delivered through the relevant, connected channels. As a final step, content engagement with key audiences can be tracked and fed back into the initial segmentation to optimise the process and better define the audience segments.

The presenters highlighted the benefits of mapping the omnichannel approach, with the resulting interconnected framework divided into key channel types, namely third-party (eg, apps), owned (eg, publications, presentations, microsites, and emails), and earned media (eg, social media). While owned channels are easily updatable and provide valuable metrics thanks to everyday access, third-party channels can also host a level of controllable content and provide an element of trackable data, provided that functional partnerships are in place. Similarly, earned media is a worthwhile consideration as information communicated via this channel is inherently trackable.

How should I approach a data strategy for omnichannel communication?

As a first step, Exon and Sloane suggested liaising with internal stakeholders (eg, compliance, information technology, and other teams) to understand what is feasible and what is already being done within the business. The next step would then be to define what success might look like, establish metrics, measure impact, and receive feedback. In this way, it is possible to assess the effectiveness of engagement within each channel – ultimately, to ensure that communications work as well as possible and to permit the evolution and enrichment of content over time based on changing audience needs.

What does the future of omnichannel communication look like?

It is likely that omnichannel communications will focus on real-time personalisation of information enabled by modular content that is easily adaptable to local rules and regulations. This infers a key role for medical and publications teams in ensuring that all content ties back to scientific communications platforms and is supported by the current evidence base. As is increasingly the case, omnichannel platforms will feature mechanisms to facilitate constant improvement based on the data gathered. The presenters thought artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies will play an increasingly important role in transforming how individuals receive their information, via automation of insights, data analysis and content consistency, and generation of personalised content.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies will play an increasingly important role in transforming how individuals receive their information.

ISMPP business meeting


  • ISMPP approaches the exciting frontier of AI technology in a strong position to impact patient care through engagement with HCPs and patients as these new tools revolutionise the profession.

Outgoing Chair of the ISMPP Board of Trustees, Dan Bridges (Inizio Health), opened the business meeting with a review of the society’s finances, which remain robust despite the recent challenging economic climate. ISMPP President and CEO, Robert Matheis, then shared his outlook on the future for the medical publication profession. With the advent of new AI technologies, including ChatGPT, Matheis described the exciting prospect of being a medical publication professional with the ability to use these tools to make a measurable impact on patient care. Matheis also noted the influx of smaller biotechnology companies whose publication needs differ to those of larger firms but are met by the core skillset of medical publication professionals.

Reviewing the ISMPP strategy, Matheis explained that the focus on investment and evolution of the society to support geographical expansion, digital innovation, and growth of existing partnerships remains relevant today. On the horizon, Matheis outlined forthcoming changes to the ISMPP West meeting, which will transform to become the ISMPP Academy. In combination with a planned restructuring of the ISMPP Committees, as well as the shift to a 5-year cycle for the Certified Medical Publication Professional (CMPP™) certification process, this change will allow ISMPP to remain nimble, current, and focused in its ability to address the needs of a new and wider membership base – now over 2,500 members – and the above-mentioned influx of smaller biotechnology companies.

AI technologies including ChatGPT present an exciting prospect for medical publication professionals to make a measurable impact on patient care.

Megan Weigel (Bristol Myers Squibb) delivered an update on the CMPP certification programme which has seen continued expansion into new territories, with new CMPPs in Sweden, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia. Weigel encouraged existing CMPPs to become mentors to help others prepare for the examinations and reminded those in attendance of the 1 August 2023 application deadline for the next CMPP exam.

Bridges thanked departing members of the ISMPP Board of Trustees for their efforts during their 3-year terms and congratulated those newly elected to the Board, before handing over the gavel to incoming Chair, Monica Mody (Bristol Myers Squibb). In her closing address, Mody set out how the society will look to patients as guides to continue to publish data with rigour, transparency, and urgency and looked forward to the new frontier of AI technology while continuing to simplify information for HCPs and patients through initiatives such as enhanced publication content and plain language summaries (PLS) during her term.


On Day 2, attendees had the opportunity to take part in a second session of roundtables covering the following topics:

  • Co-creating plain language content to ensure road reach and understanding
  • Sharing real-world evidence with the public through plain language summaries
  • The art of reaching the patient where they are: creating and disseminating valuable patient content
  • Don’t be such a scientist! Unleash your inner storyteller
  • Clear and present data: how to increase the impact and reach of your medical publications with effective and appropriate data visualization
  • Local, regional, global publication plans – challenges to effective alignment
  • Not better, not worse, just different: ethical publication practices in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Beyond journal publication: boost your publication plan with extenders
  • Copyright and licensing dos and don’ts
  • Advocating the value of visually engaging posters
  • Much ado about access
  • An open forum for newer publication professionals
  • ChatGPT and BardAI: the dawn of generative AI in medical communications
  • ISMPP committees and opportunities for involvement
  • Integration of artificial intelligence in medical communications for de novo content generation
  • Creating consistent communication through effective scientific communication platform socialization
  • Maximizing the value of an advisory board and steering committee meetings

Following the roundtables, attendees had the opportunity to attend parallel sessions.

Publication planning outside of the global setting – the need to embrace regional diversity to better support patients


  • To deliver the most impactful publications and greatest benefit to patients, it is crucial to engage with local publications/communications teams to understand cultural norms and requirements.

In the introduction and session overview, Blair Hesp (Kalnic Medical Communications) explained that English is the most commonly spoken language in the world. Yet, of the 1.5 billion people who speak English, three-quarters do so as a second language. This highlights the crucial need to be aware of cultural and linguistic diversity and emphasises the importance of understanding how diversity might influence publication planning and development practices. By combining local and international insights, it is possible to effectively optimise publication planning.

[There is a] need to be aware of cultural and linguistic diversity … … and how diversity might influence publication planning and development practices.

Semantics are important – geographical stratification can arbitrarily group heterogenous markets

William Dolben (Content Ed Net) discussed challenges to effective alignment in local, regional, and global publication plans. Given that more people are native speakers of Spanish and Mandarin, than English, it is important to consider the appropriateness of selecting the English language for publications. As publication professionals, we must be conscious of different cultures. As a case in point, Dolben highlighted differences between the English and Spanish languages and related cultural norms. For example, people in Spain have two surnames and these should be presented correctly in author lists. There are also inconsistencies in how terms are defined between the two languages, emphasising the importance of considering the accuracy and appropriateness of translations. This latter point is perhaps more important than ever, given the increasing need for translations as we move towards ever more patient-centric models of information delivery.

Obtaining comprehensive input from APAC-based authors will ultimately improve patient care

Jonathan Lee (Takeda Pharmaceuticals) presented author insights from the Asia–Pacific (APAC) region, stressing the need to consider cultural differences and communication preferences when engaging authors who speak English as a second language. In a cross-sectional survey of publication professionals, two-thirds of respondents noticed a qualitative difference in feedback from non-native English-speaking external authors, including a loss of context or clarity when providing feedback in English, and greater accuracy and detail when using their preferred non-English language. Lee concluded that forcing non-native English speakers to respond in English can be detrimental to the level of clinical insight gained, with potential follow-on repercussions for patients. Authors with English as a second language may also require more time to review, or access to appropriate translation support, to ensure relevant feedback. Lee went on to highlight the need to recognise cultural preferences and provided examples with reference to the APAC region. In a recent survey of publication professionals, two-thirds of respondents felt that in APAC, global publication guidelines are difficult to fully implement, require adaptation to accommodate the publication landscape, and do not consider cultural norms or practices.

In APAC, global publication guidelines are difficult to fully implement, require adaptation to accommodate the publication landscape, and do not consider cultural norms or practices.

Lee explained that societal or cultural traditions may place importance on consensus-seeking behaviours or on social hierarchy/seniority, whereby it is considered impolite or even rude to publicly challenge or question views held by those in senior positions. In these scenarios, one-to-one meetings, or emails, with the assurance that responses will be anonymised, may lead to more insightful feedback than group meetings or communications. To navigate these complex challenges, it is imperative that we engage with local publications teams to understand cultural norms and requirements. In doing so, we can obtain comprehensive local and regional insights to deliver relevant publications and improve patient care.

Mobilising patients as authors in publications


  • Patient authorship ensures that medical information includes a patients’ perspective and is digestible by non-medical audiences.
  • Information for patients should be patient-integrated, not just patient-centric.

Jasmine Malone (OPEN Health) introduced and moderated this parallel session, which included short presentations by Elliot Abramowitz (Patient Advocate) and Imogen Allred (OPEN Health) and was followed by an extensive Q&A session.

Patient author perspective

Abramowitz – a published clinical psychologist with 40 years of experience – was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 2013 and has been involved in patient advocacy since 2017. According to Abramowitz, medical information from the perspective of patients can only be conveyed by patients, with patient authors helping to make the information suitable for a non-medical audience. Providing a recently authored PLS published in Future Oncology, which was written by Abramowitz in collaboration with another patient author and an oncologist, Abramowitz explained how this type of collaboration can be helpful to all patients and foster patient–doctor dialogues.

Agency and publications perspective

Allred was an academic in neuroscience for almost a decade before moving into medical writing because she wanted to help patients in a more practical manner. She has worked across a wide range of therapy areas and types of materials for the last 3 years, including working directly with patients on review manuscripts and podcasts. In her view, patient authored publications should include the priorities of patients. Allred also thought it important to remember that patients are individuals and not a homogeneous group, with each patient having individual needs that must be considered. Allred emphasised the need to integrate patients in publication planning and ensure that the collaboration is mutually beneficial and empowers rather than targets the patient.

Patient authored publications should include the priorities of patients. Patients should be integrated into publication planning to ensure that the collaboration is mutually beneficial, empowering patients rather than targeting them.

The Q&A that followed these presentations highlighted the following key points:

  • It is important to include patients as authors because medical publication professionals cannot incorporate patients’ perspective without their input.
  • Although the ideal patient authors are those who are both patients and patient advocates, there is a need to include other patients’ viewpoints, as each patient is an individual.
  • There is a lack of real consensus and guidelines on the processes involved for including patient authors.
  • There is a need to make more patients aware of the potential to participate in publications.
  • Some patients may prefer to participate in non-traditional types of communications such as videos, discussion panels, or podcasts.
  • It may be beneficial to include patients as peer reviewers in publications.
  • Many patients are uncomfortable with writing, so they need to be made aware that support with writing is available.

Developing a patient lexicon to enhance patient communication – a case study


  • Patient lexicons can reduce complexity and confusion in patient-facing materials, facilitating improved health literacy.

In this session sponsored by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Reena Ketkar (Vertex), Ciara Silverman (Vertex), Alia Bucciarelli (Vertex), and Caroline Mathie (The Planning Shop) presented a case study on the development of patient lexicons in hemoglobinopathies.

Bucciarelli set the stage by emphasising the benefits of health literacy, explaining how low health literacy is associated with increased mortality, poorer self-reported health status, greater use of emergency healthcare services (but lower use of preventative services), higher rates of chronic diseases, and adoption of unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and alcohol consumption. Bucciarelli noted that improving health literacy was particularly important for rare diseases, where there can be less access to patient-facing materials compared with more common diseases.

Silverman went on to describe how a patient lexicon – a clear, accurate, and consistent vocabulary for a given disease state and/or therapy – can streamline communications with patients and caregivers and reduce complexity and confusion in patient-facing materials (including websites, consent forms, infographics, and PLS), thereby facilitating improved health literacy. Silverman outlined the key features of a patient lexicon as follows:

  • Preferred term: the term that should be used to drive consistency and alignment.
  • Definition: explanation of the term written at an appropriate level for patient communications.
  • Non-preferred term(s):  terms that should be avoided to reduce complexity and confusion.
  • Rationale: guidance and examples for how the preferred term and definition should be used.

The presenters then used a case study in the area of hemoglobinopathies to outline the process of developing a patient lexicon, from identifying and evaluating the pre-existing vocabulary used in a disease area/patient community; creating the draft lexicon and performing a health literacy review of its content; testing the lexicon with patients and caregivers and obtaining their feedback; and finally reviewing the feedback and incorporating it to develop and roll-out the final lexicon.

Ketkar concluded with some guidance on best practice for developing patient lexicons, highlighting the importance of including a health literacy section with the lexicon to improve accessibility and patient comprehension, and the need to incorporate sufficient time in the development process for appropriate medical, legal, and regulatory review. The presenters hope the lexicon presented in their case study (currently in its patient-testing stage) will help to standardise the language used to communicate with patients in the area of hemoglobinopathies and ultimately improve patient engagement and outcomes.

A patient lexicon – a clear, accurate, and consistent vocabulary for a given disease state and/or therapy –  can streamline communications with patients and caregivers.

Digital innovations in medical publications to enhance user experience and engagement


  • Digital innovations can address the current need to engage time-poor audiences and be compatible with the trend towards increased use of mobile devices for access to medical information.
  • Immersive learning enables collection of unique insights and metrics that cannot be captured using non-digital or traditional methods.

The panellists for this parallel session on digital innovations in medical publications were Shalini Murthy (Parexel), Jennifer Granit (Parexel), Szilvia Mosolits (Bristol Myers Squibb), and Tara Miller (Bristol Myers Squibb). The focus of this session was to recognise key challenges for audience engagement in multiple settings and to identify innovative ways to engage with audiences, with the aim of improving the tools used for scientific exchange.

Audience engagement challenges

Granit summarised the current audience engagement challenges as the following:

  • Information overload due to more journals, congresses, and podcasts/news being available for time-constrained HCPs.
  • Limited engagement opportunities for HCPs due to hybrid and virtual congress formats.
  • Difficulty in measuring impact beyond traditional citation analysis.

Revealing how polling of medical communications teams identified interactivity, visual representation of information, accessibility and engagement potential, brevity of information, and limited use of jargon as key components of digital innovation, Granit concluded that the ultimate goal of digital innovation is to increase retention and understanding of the content.

The ultimate goal of digital innovation is to increase retention and understanding of the content.

Granit expanded on two types of digital innovations: those that summarise or reimagine content to focus on key information and those that optimise format and features of existing content for better user experience. The former type of digital innovation includes digital publication enhancers such as infographics, videos, podcasts, animations, publication explainers, and graphical PLS. These require separate content development and processes to ensure scientific integrity. Conversely, the second type of digital innovations contains no or minimal new content and thus lowers the review burden on authors, as well as being less time-consuming.

A case study on immersive e-posters

Mosolits then presented results from a case study on an immersive e-poster version of an existing congress poster. The immersive e-poster tried to combine all of the features identified as top priorities for digital innovations: it was user-friendly (it automatically scaled to any device), allowed zoom and navigation, and captured insights/metrics (the interactive nature of the e-poster enabled users to provide their feedback by using sad/neutral/smiley faces to react to the content). The immersive poster was well received, with approximately 7 times more views than static PDF posters within the same category at the same congress and around 5 times more views than the static version of the same poster.

The immersive poster was well received, with approximately 7 times more views than static PDF posters within the same category at the same congress and around 5 times more views than the static version of the same poster.

Mosolits outlined potential challenges and considerations for developing the immersive poster:

  • The need for new review and approval processes that ensured the HTML files were securely hosted and that the privacy of those who interacted with the poster was maintained.
  • The need to balance legal and compliance considerations (to avoid leading questions and commercial feel or tone) versus content desired by authors and reviewers.
  • Allowing the additional time needed to apply technology and approve interactive features.
  • Ensuring all stakeholders were educated on how to use the features so they could present to colleagues and share the QR code and URL.
  • Ensuring the congress was aware and supportive of the new features, particularly for the polling questions, because these were a novel feature of the poster.

Developing patient-accessible publication extenders: key stakeholder perspectives


  • Publishers should be aware of the variety of publication extenders that can accompany articles.
  • Pharmaceutical companies should include PLS and other extenders at the earliest planning stages and consider developing style guides to ensure patient accessibility.
  • Medical communications agencies can help ensure content is developed at a level appropriate for patient audiences and in an engaging format.
  • Patient advocates are motivated to participate in content development and see value in furthering their understanding of their condition.

Caroline Halford (Springer Healthcare), Brian Scheckner (Jazz Pharmaceuticals), Jasmine Malone (OPEN Health), Jill Adelman (Patient Advocate), and Anna Frangou (session moderator, OPEN Health) formed the panel for this parallel session looking at developing publication extenders from a variety of perspectives.

The publisher perspective

Halford began by describing two established types of content and extenders:

  • Materials for patients: eg, PLS, digital extenders (video abstracts, infographics, audio discussions), and PLS of publications (PLSPs)
  • Materials by patients: eg, original research (PLS, videos), reviews (infographics, videos), commentaries (patient photos, audio slides), and podcast articles (infographics, plain-text transcript aids), where the target audience is not necessarily patients.

Halford referred to established data on the value of PLSPs for patients/caregivers as well as HCPs and explained how the metrics for patient authored content/extenders show they are impactful based on high numbers of downloads and citations.

The pharmaceutical company perspective

Scheckner then expanded on why pharmaceutical companies are interested in developing PLSPs, noting how they can align with the patient-centric mission and vision of pharmaceutical companies, allow patients and caregivers to seek further information about their disease state and treatments, and ensure that data are accessible to patients. Furthermore, open access PLS can increase diversity, equity, and inclusion by reaching all potential audiences. He reiterated that pharmaceutical companies can help to establish PLSPs as a standard part of the publication process by including them for all submissions and engaging with patient authors, reviewers, advocates, and/or caregivers where possible. The industry can also prioritise journals that peer review PLS and allow open access. Further, pharmaceutical companies can develop style guides for PLS creation (with appropriate reading levels and formats), as well as ensure budget allowances for PLS and other enhanced content.

Pharmaceutical companies can enable development of PLSPs by including them for all submissions, engaging with patient authors, reviewers, advocates, and/or caregivers where possible, and prioritising journals that peer review PLS and allow open access.

The agency perspective

Malone set out the agency perspective by asserting that everyone has the right to access and understand accurate information from reputable sources despite their background. She considered the following as key considerations for developing patient-accessible publication extenders:

  • Do not presume to understand what patients want to read about – co-creation and validation are essential.
  • Comprehension is key – follow the principles of health literacy.
  • Ensure accessibility.
  • Enhance engagement by employing engaging formats for information dissemination.

Malone then shared a step-by-step guideline for co-creating and validating patient materials starting with identifying the lay audience and their key unmet need. Once these are known, content should be developed emphasising the information most relevant to the audience and using visual and design elements where possible to aid understanding. Content should be reviewed for medical accuracy and to improve readability and comprehension, and Malone stressed the importance of the patient validation step to ensure the content is relevant, understandable, and meets the needs of patients. She added that smart use of creativity, technology, and tools can enhance the audience experience and improve data retention.

Smart use of creativity, technology, and tools can enhance the audience experience and improve data retention.

The patient advocate perspective

Finally, Adelman provided a patient perspective on publication extender development. She reaffirmed that patients need accessible materials to understand their disease, noting that inclusion of patient perspectives in publication extenders helps HCPs to truly understand the patient experience. Adelman shared that she was a patient author in an ophthalmology publication that was followed with a live podcast, and that participating in these activities made her feel that she was helping other people handle their own experiences better.

[Including] patient perspectives in publication extenders helps HCPs to truly understand the patient experience.

Guided poster tour: Plain Language Summary

On Day 2, the guided poster tour called out 4 posters covering the theme of Plain Language Summaries (presenting authors shown in bold):

  • Who are the authors of plain language summaries of publications? – Catherine Elliott, Jacqui Oliver, Lauren Manning, Rachel Jenkins, Joanne Walker, and Dawn Lobban.
  • Plain language summary formats: opinions and preferences of healthcare professionals – Caroline Halford, Matt Evans, Lydia Alborn, and Steve Winter.
  • Achieving health equity through shared decision making: evolution of plain language summaries (PLS) – Brittany Wolf Gianares, Raj Patel, Shivali Shah, Jennifer Ghith, Sam Garas, Christan Thomas, Kristine Schuler, Dean Campbell, Luciano Passador, Leah LaRue, and Martina Schwarzkopf.
  • Understanding the value of standalone plain language summaries of publications: updated findings from an online survey of readers – Jacqui Oliver, Dawn Lobban, Laura Dormer, Rachel Jenkins, and Joanne Walker.

 Awards reception

The 19th Annual Meeting featured the inaugural ISMPP Professional Excellence Awards, with the society recognising the achievements of its members in the following categories:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Yvonne Yarker
  • President’s Award: Dawn Lobban
  • Outstanding Committee Member Award: Sonia Schweers
  • Rising Star Award: Simon Stones
  • CMPP Award: Dana Fox

This year’s poster prize winners were also congratulated:

  • Best Original Research: What do doctors really do on the internet? – Gary Burd, Nicole Strangman, Caitlin Schoensiegel, Shubham Sarcar, and Heather Figlar.
  • Best Practice: A tale of three dashboards: the use of interactive data visualization in oncology publishing – Christian M. Thomas, Dean Campbell, Leah LaRue, Erikka Brewer, Travis Vaught, Julian Martins, Nishal Patel, and Jennifer Ghith.
  • Best Visual Communications: Peer-reviewed research articles in non-traditional formats – hidden in plain sight? – Sara Black, Bjorn Hanger, Bakhouche Bakhouche, Clare Bellward, and Marc Swift.
  • Publication Star: Are conference presentations accessible? Insights from an online survey to improve equity – Emily L. Messina, Zen Faulkes, Noofa Hannan, Mike Morrison, Anja Petersen, Heather Robertson, Lauren C. Strother, and James L. Wells.

Congratulations to all this year’s winners!

Why not also read the summaries of Day 1, the morning of Day 2, and Day 3 of the meeting?


Written as part of a Media Partnership between ISMPP and The Publication Plan, by Aspire Scientific, a proudly independent medical writing and communications agency led by experienced and dedicated industry experts.


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