Why bother with writing assistance for HEOR studies? Surely we can all communicate…

3 min read
First Published: 
Dec 2012

Key Learnings contained in this article:

The primary reason for performing health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) is to inform decisions – whether those decisions are about more research needed or go/no go development decisions, or the use or value of a product or service.  The key concept is that of INFORMING.  If you are not communicating the results of your research adequately, it doesn’t matter how good it is – it won’t be fulfilling its primary function.

The primary method for getting the results of HEOR into the public domain, despite these transparent days of raw data on the web, is via publications. Leave your data in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet, and you have effectively wasted your research time. (For the purposes of making a point, I am ignoring all commercially sensitive internal research – but the same concept applies to the internal reports for these data – if they are not readable, they are largely useless: at worst, they can be misleading and at best, highly annoying time wasters.)

Many research scientists secretly believe in their hearts (if not in their subjective heads as well) that they are as good as the next person at writing up their own studies.  Even with all the evidence to the contrary. In my experience of health economics and outcomes researchers over the past 20 years, I have found less than 20% capable of creating a comprehensive and readable publication from scratch, that is aimed at any audience other than their peers.  Yes, I know researchers in pharma will have published in journals previously, but (to use an analogy)  just because one has successfully defrosted and microwaved an edible meal a few times, it doesn’t mean one is automatically capable of joining Gordon Ramsay’s team in his New York MAZE restaurant.  And in general, the amount of money spent on conducting research in pharma would suggest that it was worthy of better treatment than the writing equivalent of medium French fries and a diet coke.

As for the construction of publications not being rocket science, that’s true too.  But researchers are generally employed because they are good at research, not for their communication skills.  The same is true for researchers employed in outcomes research vendor companies, and especially in vendors involved in modelling – generally only the senior people are great communicators and they are not about to use their high-value time in generating manuscripts. No matter how much they try to convince you to the contrary, it will be the junior researcher every time. So if your outcomes data are as important to medicine as they should be, why not ensure they have the best possible chance of affecting healthcare, by easing the way into public scrutiny in a manner that allows for open, honest appraisal by by those who have need of it most? You’ll be glad you did.

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Ruth Whittington
CEO of Rx Values Group Ltd
MSc(hons), NZSRN
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