Understanding the medical writing industry is about keeping up-to-date with the trends, opportunities and issues that impact the medical industry as well as the writing industry.
It also involves being aware of any health, medical and writing trends that could affect your work, business and career.
Some examples include:
- Appropriate language in patient education materials – for example, a recent study showed the impact of misusing the word ‘breakthrough’ in scientific communications
- Regulatory laws – you’ll need to be aware of current laws, as well as any changes to regulations or legislation
- Lawsuits – legal issues can affect health professionals and publications you may write for
- Health disparities – learning how to describe the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’
- Writing clearly about COVID-19 – and other pandemic-related issues, like infodemics and vaccine hesitancy
While there are specific medical writing-related issues we need to be aware of, like whether cheap medical writing outsourcing is a threat to your career, and if health bloggers should give health advice, it’s also important for us to follow the broader topics that inform our work.
So if you’re keen to learn more about the health writing industry, here’s some advice to get you started.
Join medical writing associations
Your local medical writing association is the best place to start when it comes to getting to know the industry.
Join it, read their newsletters and attend networking events regularly.
I am the President of the Australasian Medical Writers Association until August 2019 – this is a volunteer position and I was honoured to be awarded this role in 2016.
Before becoming President I sat on the Executive Committee for 5 years. I, and the other members of the Executive Committee, get no financial benefit from our involvement – we’re involved simply because we’re passionate about our local medical writing industry and we want to ensure it thrives.
I always encourage aspiring medical writers to join their local associations because there is so much to be gained through networking, professional development and annual conferences.
Medical writing associations are peak bodies for health communication. They broadcast the industry issues and relevant news you need to be aware of as a health writer. Associations are also a great place to go for networking, events and training.
Here are some of the major associations to get you started:
- American Medical Writers Association
- European Medical Writers Association
- Australasian Medical Writers Association
- Association of Health Care Journalists
- African Health Journalists Association
Be aware of health industry news
As a medical writer, you should be aware of what’s happening in health and medicine at a local and global level, including:
- Current controversies – eg general vaccine hesitancy as well as covid-19 vaccine hesitancy, public health, conflicts in key journals
- News – read and watch the news every day and take note of which health stories are featured
- Journals – subscribe to TOCs (table of contents) and keep up-to-date with what the main journals are publishing.
Following the health industry helps to ensure your writing work is informed, and it gives you ideas for new content.
Follow the latest writing industry news
As well as keeping up-to-date with the medical industry, do your best to keep an eye on the writing industry and any developments in writing-related issues. This includes payment rates, career and employment issues related to writers, and job application processes (for example, whether writing tests are required).
It’s important to know where your industry is heading. You need to know about any issues that may impact your future career development.
Following the latest developments in the writing industry will also help you to stay competitive and involved with the profession.
Stay updated with regulations and laws
Laws and regulations in the medical field change regularly. Follow consumer watchdogs, regulatory bodies and try to keep informed of any changes.
Not knowing the regulations and laws can have huge ramifications for your clients, employers and readers if you write something non-compliant.
Follow the industry news in the medical field
Following medical industry news for doctors, pharmacists and allied health professionals is useful.
Some publications are restricted to health professionals; however, you should still be able to follow the publication and read the abstracts or outlines to stay informed.
Understanding the issues that are imprtant for doctors will also help if you’re writing content for doctors.
How do you stay up-to-date with the medical writing industry?