An Ultimate Guide To Medical Writing in 2022
Medical writing is a prestigious profession. Every day, medical writers describe documents, disseminate news and research that improves health outcomes and saves lives. Their roles and opportunities are constantly changing, whether they’re writing peer-reviewed articles about clinical trials, marketing cutting-edge devices, educating health care professionals and even the general public. This guide provides information and resources on what medical writers do, the companies they work for, and what you need to know to start your career in this expanding, rewarding, and lucrative field.
What Is Medical Writing?
It entails producing well-structured scientific documents such as clinical research papers, content for healthcare websites, health magazines, journals, and news. As medicine and health care continue to evolve and innovate, the need to communicate about research findings, products, technology, and services is becoming more important.
Medical writers are in high demand to communicate new information to both health care professionals and the general public. Medical writers communicate scientific and clinical data to a wide range of audiences, from doctors and nurses to insurance adjusters and patients, depending on their position and scope of duties.
They create content in a variety of formats, from traditional print publications to electronic publications, multimedia presentations, videos, podcasts, website content, and social media sites. Medical writers frequently collaborate with doctors, scientists, and other subject matter experts (SMEs) to produce documents that describe research findings, product usage, and other medical information.
They also make certain that documents meet regulatory, publication, or other guidelines in terms of content, format, and structure. Medical writers also play an essential role in the development of mobile applications that are used in several ways, such as:-
- Disease control
- Education and training that is ongoing
- Medical research and data collection
Medical editors are essential members of the medical communication team, and they are responsible for a variety of quality assurance roles, including:-
- Errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation must be corrected.
- Copyediting ensures that your writing is accurate, clear, and flows smoothly.
- Ensure that data is correct and consistent across texts and graphics.
- Ascertain that the content and its organization adhere to the relevant guidelines and standards.
An ever-increasing number of research investigations, rising clinical experience, and new ideas and thoughts are continually adding new knowledge and information to the area of medicine.
All of this data must be presented effectively to various audiences, including physicians and other healthcare professionals, patients and consumers, and drug regulators. This writing is the practice of medical writers (sometimes known as “medical writers”) creating scientific texts.
Medical writers may not be the original scientists who conducted the research, but they collaborate with the physicians and scientists who generated the data and assist convey it appropriately. The significance of effective writing cannot be overstated, as science relies on precise and unambiguous reporting.
Even the most rigorous study can be tainted by a bad presentation. The medical writer must have a thorough understanding of medical concepts and ideas, as well as the ability to provide data and interpretation in a way that the target audience can comprehend Medical writers combine their scientific expertise with an awareness of research to present information to the intended audience at the appropriate level.
Furthermore, the writing must adhere to the criteria for various forms of documents. Because it takes specialized knowledge and skills to create scientific documents that are well-structured and presented clearly and straightforwardly, this type of writing has established itself as an important job in the pharmaceutical sector.
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Growth in this profession
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the need for medical writers. The reasons are numerous:
- More research studies are being conducted in the biomedical field today
- And various scientific documents must be generated for submission to regulatory authorities during the approval process
- The number of biomedical journals has increased significantly, and many more scientific articles are now published than before
- Similarly, with the addition of a new and powerful citation tool, the number of citations has increased significantly
This market has doubled in size in the last five years, according to CenterWatch. with revenues rising from $345 million in 2003 to $694 million in 2008. It is also the fourth most frequently outsourced service, according to a separate poll.
As pharmaceutical companies outsource more work to Asia, Indian graduates can consider this type of writing as a viable career option and gain the information and skills needed to pursue it full-time.
What do medical writers do?
The medical community benefits from the skills and efforts of medical writers and editors. Their work includes the following examples:
- Medical journal abstracts and medical conference abstracts.
- Pharmaceutical, medical device, and other product advertisements.
- Summary of the Advisory Board.
- Materials for continuing medical education.
- Patients’ decision-making assistance.
- Proposals for funding.
- Documents on healthcare policy.
- Materials for health education.
- Articles in magazines and newspapers.
- Books on medicine and health care.
- Articles in medical and scientific journals.
- Promotional materials.
- Medical conference poster presentations.
- FDA filings, as well as regulatory documentation.
- Training in sales.
- Medical conference slide presentations.
- White papers.
Which Businesses Hire Medical Writers?
- Professional health care societies and associations.
- Authors or researchers.
- Companies involved in biotechnology.
- Organizations that conduct clinical or contract research (CROs).
- Agencies in communications, marketing, and advertising.
- Governmental organizations.
- Organizations or suppliers of health care.
- Publishers of medical books.
- Medical device manufacturers.
- Companies that provide medical education.
- Universities or medical colleges.
- Health and medical news sources.
- Medical journals with peer review.
- Pharmaceutical businesses.
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This writing entails the creation of a variety of documents for a variety of objectives and audiences. The following are some examples of this type of writing.
- Medical reporting.
- Articles from newspapers and magazines. These are primarily written for the general public and must be written in plain, non-technical language.
- Medical Schooling. Textbooks, CME programs, presentation decks, and e-learning modules for physicians.
- Patient education materials for patients.
- Marketing of healthcare items by doctors.
- Product monographs, brochures, and handouts are examples of promotional literature aimed at healthcare practitioners.
- E-learning modules and sales force training manuals.
- Content for doctors and patients on the internet (consumers).
- Manuscripts/articles in journals (research articles, case reports, review articles).
- For scientific meetings and conferences, posters and presentations are required.
- Documents of Research.
- Protocols for clinical trials.
- Brochure for Investigators.
- Consent-Based on Information.
Skills and Requirements for medical writing
Of course, familiarity with medical concepts and terminology is a must for becoming a medical writer. A degree in one of the life sciences, such as medicine, or a paramedical science, such as pharmacy, microbiology, nutrition and dietetics, biochemistry, or biotechnology, might provide the necessary background to familiarize the writer with scientific concepts and research data.
The capacity to write is another crucial requirement. Because a medical writer’s primary responsibility is to transmit scientific information to a specific audience, they must have some command of the language, as seen by the ability to produce grammatically accurate prose and the capacity to explain and present information simply.
In addition to the above-mentioned fundamental criteria, domain knowledge and language abilities are required. Apart from the above-mentioned requirement, expertise in a specific field is required:-
- Medical and therapeutic area knowledge – Given that the medical writer transmits scientific information in the medical sector, it goes without saying that he or she is familiar with medical language and concepts. Knowledge in a specific therapeutic area, such as cardiology or neurology, can substantially aid in the writing of technical documentation in that field.
However, because medical writers rarely work in a single therapeutic area, having a complete understanding of each therapy area may not be achievable. It would be a smart idea to have a fundamental understanding of several medical specializations and then build on that when one writes documents in various therapy areas.
- Drug development process: Medical writers involved in the preparation of clinical research and regulatory documents require a thorough understanding of the drug development process, clinical research, and various guidelines related to these are required to have a thorough understanding of the drug development process, clinical research, and various guidelines related to these.
Those preparing early clinical development reports must also have a solid understanding of pharmacology and pharmacokinetic issues. Similarly, medical writers who prepare safety reports must be familiar with the medication safety process and the rules for safety reporting set forth by various regulatory agencies.
- Statistics – When writing about clinical trials and research studies, medical writers often come across statistics. Clinical research statistics must be reported in a way that allows doctors to critically evaluate the quality and reliability of both the study design and any conclusions that may have implications for clinical practice.
Confidence intervals, regression analyses, randomization schemes, P values, and t-tests are all things that any medical writer needs to deal with. Good writing necessitates knowledge of statistics. Attending workshops on medical statistics led by trained statisticians is one method to improve this.
- Technical guidelines – The European Union, the United States, and Japan have developed a set of standardized medication development and registration guidelines (International Conference on Harmonization [ICH] guidelines). In addition, each country’s regulatory body has its own set of regulations.
There are numerous instructions on how to create clinical research reports (ICH E3), investigator brochures, patient information booklets, clinical overviews, periodic safety reports (ICH E2C), and other regulatory papers. These instructions must be read carefully.
The ICH website or the websites of the Regulatory Authorities usually have information on these technical requirements. A regulatory medical writer must be familiar with these guidelines. Furthermore, new guidelines emerge, and old ones are amended, so a medical writer must stay current.
Guidelines for publication, such as Good Publication Practices, guidelines for reporting clinical trials (e.g. CONSORT), and manuscript guidelines from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) are all available. Furthermore, each medical magazine has its own set of guidelines for authors.
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General Knowledge and Skills
- Language & grammar – Medical writers must express scientific facts using language and grammar. In addition to comprehending the scientific issues, the writer must deliver the information clearly and understandably for the intended audience.
The use of grammatically accurate language, short and simple phrases, active voice, suitable punctuation marks, and a logical flow of ideas can all help readers understand the content. The use of less technical jargon makes the writing more understandable, especially for non-medical readers.
- Searching the literature/references – A vast amount of scientific data is now available in the public domain. Medical information is widely sourced through databases such as Medline, PubMed, EMBASE, and Micromedex, in addition to books and medical journals. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack by combing through all medical databases and healthcare websites for information relevant to your needs.
It is more likely to come up with relevant information if you keep in mind what you are looking for, know where to search, and select only authentic sources, plan your search strategy, use the suitable keywords for searching, and then carry out the search according to the stated plan.
Review your search results to see if the material is relevant, then categorize and systematically file helpful information. It’s just as vital to saving knowledge for later use.
- Interpretation and presentation of research data – Reviewing and interpreting research data, presenting those facts in the text, tables, and graphs, and forming logical arguments and conclusions about what the data means are all part of writing scientific documents.
Medical writers must have a thorough understanding of the research issue and the research design and data to interpret and communicate it to their audience. Data presentation in the form of tables and graphs is a skill that requires conscious effort to master.
- Ethical and legal issues: Giving true and complete information, even unfavorable findings, according to copyright rules, avoiding plagiarizing, adhering to authorship criteria for research manuscripts, and respecting the journal review process are all ethical and legal concerns for medical writers.
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Steps in writing scientific documents
- Understanding the project brief — Before beginning to write, the medical writer must first comprehend the goal of the document and what the sponsor hopes to accomplish with it. Furthermore, it is vital to understand the dates to be followed, the data to be studied, and the review/approval process to be followed.
- Literature review and search — proper planning and time spent on literature review and search can offer valuable material that a medical writer can utilize to support the paper being prepared. It’s critical to use the right search method and divide the retrieved data into manageable bits.
- Authoring and compiling the document – Most time is normally spent drafting the first version of the document. To construct the draft, you must be familiar with the type of document, its purpose, and its contents. The use of a pre-defined template simplifies the process.
Apart from the scientific substance, having acceptable language skills and adhering to the in-house or client style guide at this point might help reduce further review and revision time. The document may have several appendices in addition to the primary content.
The sponsor is usually the one who provides these. The medical writer, on the other hand, is responsible for ensuring that the final version of the document has correct and current appendices.
- The review procedure – Scientific documents include a content review as well as an editorial/formatting review. The former is normally handled by a more experienced senior medical writer and a subject matter specialist, who could be a clinician or a therapy area expert.
A quality check (QC) of the contents is also necessary, which includes cross-checking all verifiable information with the source data. A peer medical writer is normally in charge of this. However, before submitting the document for additional assessment, every medical writer must conduct a thorough self-review of the first draught.
- Formatting and editing documents: (checking text font and size consistency, line and paragraph spacing, headers and footers, margins, page numbers, etc.) is a skill that every writer should learn to make their document more presentable and acceptable. Documents that are intended for print or electronic distribution should be meticulously copy-edited, proofread, and formatted.
- Approval and signature – All scientific documents must be approved and signed by a designated approver, generally an expert. The approver might be internal or external, and enough time must be given for them to evaluate and sign the document.
- Electronic publishing-It entails converting a piece of content into a digital format that can be accessed over the internet. A multitude of software tools for e-publishing is now accessible, and a modern-day medical writer may need to be knowledgeable about how to utilize them.
1. Is medical writing a viable career option?
A job as a medical writer can be both lucrative and thrilling. Medical writers can work in a variety of settings, including pharmaceutical businesses, medical journals, healthcare internet portals, hospitals, and newspapers, to provide medical and scientific writing support.
2. What are the requirements for becoming a medical writer?
A bachelor’s degree in a scientific discipline such as biology or chemistry is required of medical writers. Employers will consider candidates with writing-related degrees, such as English or journalism if they also have the medical or scientific experience.
3. What is the average time it takes to become a medical writer?
The American Medical Writers Association normally requires certification to work as a medical writer (AMWA). You must have at least two years of experience in the field of medical communications to get certified. You’ll also have to pass a test called the Medical Writing Certification Exam.
4. What is the best way for me to find a job in medical writing?
A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in English is also acceptable if the individual has a basic understanding of medical terms. For many positions, someone with appropriate medical writing expertise is preferred.
This type of writing demands medical science understanding as well as writing skills. Furthermore, a full awareness of the special criteria for various types of medical data is necessary, as is remaining current with pertinent suggestions. Over time, the demand for medical writers has steadily increased. Medical writers have a variety of work prospects in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. It can be a full-time career for graduates and post-graduates in life sciences who have the necessary abilities.