Getting your message across

4 min read
First Published: 
Feb 2006

Key Learnings contained in this article:

In the current pharmaceutical environment your work is of paramount importance. However, if it’s communicated poorly, and those who need it can’t use it, what value does it really have?

How do you make health economics understandable to clinicians?

Health economics and outcomes research are vital in product development, subsequent approval, marketing and eventual market share. Demonstrating the economic value of the product alongside its efficacy and safety has become one of the fundamental concerns of pharmaceutical companies. As a health economist or outcomes researcher, your findings need to be accessible so they can benefit a wider audience. Perhaps most of your previous research has been published in highly technical health economics journals; now, however, you are faced with making these complex concepts and outcomes readily understood by people who don’t share your knowledge or mindset.

A simple checklist can help you make your research publications more accessible, and will enhance the chances of your manuscripts being published and understood by a clinical audience.

First ask “Who is this article aimed at?”

If it is aimed at a health economist audience, by all means explain and expand on the methodology: after all, this is the forum for technical discussion that gives you the chance to demonstrate the validity of your techniques. However, if your audience is made up of payers, remember that many of these people will not be trained in health economics. Thus, you should place your research in the context of the healthcare authorities who will be making decisions based on your information.

If your audience is composed of clinicians, remember that these people want to understand how your work will affect their clinical practice. If you’re aiming at a primary care audience – for example GPs or nurses – make sure you explain how patient care should, or could, be improved by your findings.

You might wish to make a brief note of the key topics or issues that specifically interest your target audience, and make sure your writing addresses these topics.

Next ask “What are the key facts that non-economists need to understand?”

Always make sure that your data sources are clearly defined and that you have made it obvious why they have been selected for use. Explain any assumptions that have been made, and include a sensitivity analysis to show that your results are robust even when the assumptions alter. In your discussions, put your findings in the context of current care , practices, cost and cost-effectiveness; above all ensure that your conclusions are made in the context of your target audience.

If possible, leave out detailed explanations about health economics methodology that might cloud the issue or confuse the reader, ultimately detracting from your key messages. It is often preferable to write an initial methodology manuscript and direct this to a health economics journal if your work requires validation by your peers or is particularly complex . You can then always reference the methodology article in the one destined for the clinical audience.

Finally, read it again

You should look at your manuscript with fresh eyes, from the perspective of the journal editor and the journal’s readership. Use the printable checklist on our website to make sure you have thought of everything.

Honing a publication to the needs of a specific audience is not about ‘dumbing down’ or making it so simple that all scientific value is lost; it is about using appropriate language and concepts, so your readers can understand, appreciate and ultimately put your findings into practice.

We hope these few pointers will help you think about your work from the perspective of your audience and therefore help you communicate it more effectively, but if you would like to speak to someone about your specific needs please feel free to contact us for a chat.

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