Costello Medical colleagues recently attended the 2023 European Meeting of ISMPP held in London, UK, on 24–25 January. The overarching theme of the meeting was “Fuelling Creativity”; sessions provided opportunities to consider how the healthcare industry is adopting new ways of working alongside changes to the way data and information are consumed. In this report, we summarise our key takeaways from the meeting.
Patient centricity in medical communications has increased significantly in recent years and is recognised as an important part of the publications process.
Discussions at ISMPP considered how patient involvement in publications can be achieved in practice. The recent Good Publication Practice (GPP) 2022 update1 has increased confidence in involving patients and encouraged sharing of best practices.
Publication professionals will be key to ensuring that patients have equal opportunities to provide input, and are recognised as valued partners and collaborators, with equal accountability.
Incorporating the Patient Voice
Steering committees and advisory boards are some examples of how the patient voice may be incorporated within study and publication development; early collaboration with patients allows input into study design, hypotheses and specification of relevant endpoints that reflect lived experience of a disease
The patient voice can be incorporated from study outset through to publication development; however, patient involvement should be carefully considered, ensuring that there is added value
A range of internal and external resources should be used to identify collaborators; patients themselves can also provide valuable guidance and may be able to support with improving diversity within steering committee and advisory group
Publication professionals must ensure that patient authors adhere to the same guidelines as other authors to guarantee that all ICMJE authorship criteria are met
A standardised patient author affiliation may aid discoverability of publications involving patients but patient preferences and the appropriateness of information disclosed should also be considered
GPP 2022 confirmed that patients may be compensated fairly and compliantly for their time related to publication activities, which may remove barriers to their inclusion; any compensation must be declared. Patients should not agree to authorship based solely on compensation and it should not be the sole driver for agreeing to participate
Experiences with Enhanced Content
We are delighted to see that an increasing number of journals are now offering enhanced publication content options including videos, graphical abstracts, podcasts and both written and infographic plain language summaries (PLS). In addition, some pharmaceutical companies are sharing enhanced content via industry-owned platforms, particularly alongside congress presentations.
Key Considerations for Enhanced Content
Content must always be tailored to the target audience
PLS can be considered for patients and caregivers in addition to time-poor or non-specialist medical professionals
Healthcare providers may use plain language materials to support their conversations with patients
Publication professionals should ensure that the information captured within enhanced content is accurate and aligns with the original publication
While keeping creativity in mind, accessibility of the content is of greatest importance
The use of appropriate language for the target audience will ensure that the content is readable and accessible
The layout should allow those who use screen readers to read the content
Use of appropriate colour schemes will ensure that colour blind readers can access the content
Enhanced content should be published open access wherever possible
If materials are developed to be accessible, they should not be behind a paywall
Various means of hosting open access content are available and are discussed further below
Hosting of Content
Enhanced publication content can be shared in different ways and various online repositories are being explored within the healthcare industry.
Many journals now support the hosting of enhanced content alongside the publication, with GPP 2022 encouraging that enhanced content is peer reviewed and published alongside the main article1
Independent platforms offer an alternative to journal-hosted content and can be used as a repository for a variety of enhanced content that can be readily accessed
Industry-owned platforms can provide additional content in a similar manner to independent platforms; sharing of experience and best practice will be welcomed in this area
Enhanced content should be built into a strategic publication plan (SPP) at the outset
Specification of the intended audience(s) for enhanced content within the publication plan will facilitate compliance discussions and assist with clear and appropriate messaging
Timely planning can also ensure that target journals with the capacity to host and share enhanced content are identified
Publication professionals should discuss any planned enhanced content with authors during journal selection to ensure accessibility to all enhanced content developed
Publication professionals can facilitate open discussions with journal editors about their policies
Collaboration with the journal can help to ensure that the copyright of materials remains with the agreed party
If shared on an independent or industry-owned platform, carefully consider who will be able to access the material and whether it is the right audience for the enhanced content
Formal peer-review may not be possible outside of the journal context; further guidance in this area will improve confidence and best practice in sharing content via different platforms
Artificial Intelligence in Publications
The increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence (AI), such as ChatGPT, and its presence in medical communications is a rapidly growing area of exploration. Development of AI is fast-paced and publication professionals should maintain an awareness of emerging technologies so that recommendations and best practices reflect the current landscape.
AI and Data Analytics
AI tools have the potential to extract information from previously underused large datasets. Machine learning technologies are also in the pipeline for use in gap analyses in addition to automatic text summarisations using natural language processing.2 These tools have the potential to increase the speed and efficiency of data analysis and processing, but as use may begin to increase, it is likely that the limitations and the role of Medical Writers in maintaining accuracy of information will become clearer.
AI and Text Generation
There have been increased discussions around the use of AI for text generation. However, in the early stages of development and beyond, publication professionals must be aware of potential issues and limitations such as data security and accuracy of reporting and interpretation.
The use of text generation software will continue to grow, and the following information will be beneficial if this technology is adopted within medical communications:
Clear guidance on acceptable use
Full disclosure of the limitations
Setting of expectations with regards to capabilities
Advancements in technology and the desire to explore the real-world benefits of new therapies has continued to drive interest in real-world evidence. An increased focus on different types of real-world evidence is likely to emerge. In particular, health data derived from wearable devices could provide insights into daily patient experiences of diseases.
Although there are numerous benefits to using these data, additional compliance and data protection considerations are required due to handling of sensitive data. Industry training and guidance may be needed to maintain consistency in approaches used.
Ensuring patients remain at the forefront of medical research continues to be a key theme in the medical communications industry. Examples of incorporating the patient voice effectively are important for continued collaboration within the industry. Development and accessibility of PLS and enhanced content are essential to improve accessibility of important research.
Publication professionals are also likely to have a growing relationship with both AI and real-world evidence in the future, thus keeping pace with these fast-moving topics will likely be a key theme of subsequent industry meetings.
If you would like any further information on the themes presented above, please do not hesitate to contact Sarah Clements, Publication Manager, Claire Hews, Senior Medical Writer (LinkedIn) or Luke Green, Senior Medical Writer. Sarah, Claire and Luke are employees at Costello Medical. The views/opinions expressed are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Costello Medical’s clients/affiliated partners.
DeTora LM et al. Good Publication Practice (GPP) Guidelines for Company-Sponsored Biomedical Research: 2022 Update. Ann Intern Med 2022;175:1298-1304
McMinn D et al. ISMPP 2023 Poster #21
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