Harness the Power of HEOR Writing

Written by Beth Lesher and Larry Radican on Friday 27th January 2023

Effective HEOR (health economics and outcomes research) writing clearly communicates the value of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and other healthcare interventions.

That’s essential information in today’s increasingly complex healthcare ecosystem. patients, providers, payors, policymakers, and industry insiders rely on HEOR data to help them decide how to responsibly allocate their resources. HEOR writers craft compelling narratives that help these stakeholders understand the real-world value of medical treatments and health interventions. 

“To make well-informed decisions, stakeholders need that full compendium of information—clinical trial data as well as HEOR data,” says Larry Radican, Vice President, HEOR, at OPEN Health Communications. “If you have one without the other, you don’t have all the information you need to make an informed decision.”

Increase in HEOR Data Is Boosting Demand for HEOR Writing

In recent years, there’s been an uptick in the number of health economic publications as researchers quantify the value of various interventions. As a result, “there’s more health economic data available to share,” says Beth Lesher, a Senior Director in Evidence & Access at OPEN Health.

At the same time, demand for timely access to HEOR data has increased. “Patients, physicians, and payors want that information when they have access to a product,” Lesher says. “They don’t want it five years from now.”

In fact, HEOR data is now critical to patient access. Today, “regulatory approval does not equate to market access,” Lesher says. Payors want to know if new therapies (or new indications for older therapies) are a good value for the money. If biopharmaceutical companies or medical device developers can’t clearly communicate the value of a given treatment, payors are unlikely to cover or reimburse it, and many potential patients will not have access to a promising treatment. 

Increasingly, the biopharmaceutical industry and medical communications agencies need writers who understand HEOR methodologies and HEOR writing. Medical writers and those with backgrounds in health economics, biostatistics, epidemiology, health services research, and other related fields are well-positioned to learn HEOR writing. 

Compelling Narratives Demystify HEOR Data (and Communicate Value) 

A patient (or provider or payor) is unlikely to be excited about a new drug with an adverse event rate of 15 percent. Who wants to take a medication that may cause unpleasant or dangerous side effects?

But if that new drug effectively treats a disease that is typically managed with a medication that has a 50 percent adverse event rate, well, that’s a different story. Patients, prescribers, and payors are much more likely to consider a new medication that has fewer side effects than existing treatments, even if the newer drug is more expensive upfront, because the decreased risk of side effects may lead to fewer days off work and fewer follow-up medical visits, as well as increased productivity and quality of life.

“That’s a compelling narrative,” Lesher says. “There’s an unmet need, and we now have a drug that addresses that unmet need. We’ve demonstrated value for that product.”

Good HEOR writers are value storytellers. They use HEOR research and data to demonstrate the real-world value of medical treatments and health interventions to interested stakeholders.

“The value story we craft is a highly credible one based on sound science,” Radican says. “Everything we write in that value narrative points to a specific data point or study.”

Because different stakeholders have different concerns and perspectives, HEOR writers must understand their target audience before beginning a new project. Who is this for? is one of the first questions writers should ask when a project is kicking off because the answer will help the writer efficiently craft a targeted narrative for strong impact.

“If you’re writing for a payor audience, they may be more interested in healthcare resource utilization, direct medical costs, pharmacy costs, in- and outpatient costs, and how costs are incurred or offset over time,” Radican says. In contrast, clinicians may be more interested in an improved side effect profile, reductions in morbidity, and quality-of-life measures. 

This information is often contained in study reports that can be 100 pages or longer. Skilled and competent HEOR writers can take that information and distill it down to its most critical elements so stakeholders say, “‘Aha! I see the unmet need; I see the value,’” Radican says. 

Lesher and Radican conclude that “OPEN Health is an organization that strives to unlock possibilities for patients every day through high-quality HEOR evidence generation and value communications.” 

Radican and Lesher taught medical communications professionals the basics of HEOR writing during a 60-minute webinar called HEOR Writing: The Ins and Outs of Value Communications

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