Rob Pilbrow, Global Managing Director, Medical Writing, OPEN Health takes 15 minutes to answer some key questions on scientific writing
1. What are the key medical and scientific writing activities that pharma is currently investing in?
We live in an era of high-science healthcare communications. The drugs and products we work on are becoming ever more complex, and mechanisms of action more difficult to understand. A number of current therapeutic approaches – such as gene editing, gene therapy, and stem-cell therapy – were not in existence when many healthcare professionals (HCPs) underwent their training, so there is a real role for medical communications professionals to educate HCPs so they can see the relevance of these advances to their clinical practice. In response to this, we have seen the increasing rise to prominence of medical affairs as a central function within pharmaceutical companies, providing a credible means of scientific exchange with HCPs. Pharma is also engaging with a broader range of stakeholders, moving beyond prescribers and HCPs to patients, caregivers, patient advocacy groups, payers, insurers and policy makers. Therefore, it is imperative that teams involved in medical communications create narratives to resonate with each audience, and ensure that their message is heard, and more importantly, has an impact. While advances in science can seem incredible at times, there remains a need to make the story personal to the audience and to create a clear ‘so what?’ - we can’t expect the science to tell the story for us.
2. What sets the medical and scientific writing teams at OPEN Health apart within the industry?
We have long been recognised as leaders within the field of oncology, rare disease and specialised medicine and are used to partnering with experts in these rapidly-growing areas. We have correspondingly invested in specialist writers with very strong scientific backgrounds: our writing team comprises PhDs, medical doctors and pharmacists, all of whom have expertise in complex therapy areas, and of course, outstanding communications skills. Also, our OPEN Health values, which focus on themes such as ownership, excellence, collaboration and responsibility, have served to create a strong shared purpose within our teams. When we work together, we challenge each other to expect more from ourselves and our interactions. We routinely collaborate across disciplines within OPEN Health to bring in the right expertise to meet our clients' challenges and enable us to propose solutions that are fresh, purposeful and clinically relevant. Finally, the team demonstrates comfort and expertise with digital communications, which underpins all of our medical communications programmes.
3. How does OPEN Health approach the recruitment, on-boarding and training of its medical and scientific writers?
As the medical communications industry grows and matures, the 'sink or swim' approach to training that was once prevalent is rapidly changing. Quite rightly, expectations of medical writers are changing, as they demand more from training and development. To this end, at OPEN Health, we have created a comprehensive training programme to help new medical writers navigate the scientific, editorial and compliance landscape of medical communications. This training is supplemented by strong relationships with more senior members of staff who provide feedback on writers’ work and who are truly invested in their development. My view is that there is no better place than OPEN Health for a new medical writer to get industry-leading training, outstanding opportunities to develop their skills, and the senior support to accelerate their careers. We're very proud of the fact that many of our senior writers have been with us a long time and have built their careers at OPEN Health.
4. How does OPEN Health ensure quality in the work it produces?
Our vision is to be the most respected healthcare agency group on the planet. To me, high-quality medical writing is at the heart of this, and fortunately, we're starting from a very strong position. Our size and global reach means that we can draw upon a large team of hugely experienced medical and scientific writers, with expertise in their respective fields - medical affairs content, market access, real-world evidence, publication planning and execution, patient and brand communications, medical education and internal training. We combine this with rigorous internal review, watertight quality control processes, and above all, a shared commitment to, and understanding of, what quality healthcare communications look like.
5. As newly-appointed Global MD, Medical Writing, what plans do you have for the medical and scientific writing teams at OPEN Health?
With the recent consolidation of practices, and the merger with Peloton Advantage, we can benefit from and leverage the vast medical writing experience across the US and UK. Our collaborative approach facilitates cross-fertilisation of ideas, sharing of best practices and a ‘growth mindset’ with regard to learning and development. We have long recognised the societal shift towards flexible working and have a mature approach to remote working that enables writers to do their best work, in their preferred setting, and at times that work for them. With expanding geographies, industry-leading training, and a strong support network, my vision is for OPEN Health to be recognised as the primary destination for ambitious medical and scientific writers who want to be part of the most respected medical writing team in the industry.