Medical Writing in a Digital Era - 10 Things to Watch in 2020

4 min read
First Published: 
Jan 2020

Over the years, medical writing has evolved enormously in response to changes in the healthcare field. Here, we look back and explore some of those changes and what they mean for medical writing in the coming year.

1. Medical writers are in high demand

Now more than ever, medical writers have an abundance of job options, from startups to large pharma, communication agencies, and CROs. In response, many companies are starting to implement strategies to lower their attrition rates. Companies have begun offering flexible work hours, investing in mentorship and training programs, and offering employees a chance to try out new areas of writing.

2. Working from home is now the norm

Along with more flexible hours, many companies are also expanding options for remote working. Writing is perhaps one of the few professions that are often done best from the comfort and quiet of home (and the numbers back that up). On average, remote workers work more days per month and lose less time to distractions.

3. Teams are becoming global

The increase in remote work has also created an increase in global medical writing. It’s important that companies help their global teams to engage as it’s not uncommon for people working on the same project to be on opposite sides of the country, if not the world. Understanding employees’ goals and keeping up with global regulations is a must.

4. Growing use of new technologies

Over the past few years, it has become even more important for medical writers to know their way around not only Word and PowerPoint, but also Photoshop, reference managers, and editing tools. New tech tools have been popping up to increase efficiency as well, including new QC programs and even using AI to cut down on regulatory document development time.

5. Writing is becoming more specialized

For a career that most people stumble into after an unsatisfying start in the lab or academia, medical writing is becoming increasingly specialized into regulatory, CME, medical affairs, and promotional. It’s not uncommon for writers to focus strictly on one area to keep up with changing regulations and rapid advancements in medical research.

6. Increased access to training

The increase in specialization of medical writing has placed a large entry barrier for newcomers. With this has come new training opportunities and fellowship programs to give nascent writers a leg up or even offer an opportunity for more seasoned professionals to change course. Associations such as AMWA, EMWA, ISMPP and RAPS offer online training, as well as providing a great resource for both new and experience writers.

7. Outsourcing is in

From the very large to the very small, pharma companies are downsizing and increasingly relying on outside sources to help manage everything from research to marketing. This fits in very nicely with the growing “gig economy.” CROs alone are expected to continue growing by as much as 12%.

8. Patient-centered communications

Now more than ever, the general public has unprecedented access to medical information. This data revolution has increased many patients’ autonomy and health literacy. It’s important to start including them in the medical conversation and listen to their concerns instead of only focusing on the KOLs of the world.

9. Real-world data

The FDA has been putting pressure on pharma to include more real-world data. It’s important that medical writers understand these new data collection methods to help increase efficiency by tailoring our communications to include real-world settings.

10. Rapid technological advancements in medical care

AI, wearables, personalized medicine, and digital health are becoming big players in the medical field. Medical writers need to educate themselves about these new advancements as we will see an increase in their popularity in the years to come.

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Dorothy Keine
Dorothy Keine is an experienced medical and scientific writer with experience at med comms agencies, pharmaceutical companies, medical start-ups, and academic research. She loves to explore the fields of science and medicine.
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