Can We Do More To Measure Our Value?

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True or false:

Well-trained medical communicators bring value to the teams with whom they work.

I hope you answered true because that’s the right answer.

The key adjective of course is well-trained.

To perform our jobs well—and to provide excellent value to our employers or clients—requires, at the very least, a core knowledge of the mechanics of writing and editing, hands-on experience with a variety of document types, an understanding of ethical practices and the role of professional medical communicators, and emotional intelligence that encompasses a range of soft skills. When medical communicators lack these basics, their value is diminished.  

But articulating our value goes beyond a recitation of our education and the experience we list on our resumes. In an increasingly competitive job market, to meet future workplace expectations we need hard evidence to demonstrate the value we bring to the table.

Unfortunately, quantifying our value hasn’t been easy. After all, we’re not making widgets. Complicating the value discussion are the many professional areas in which we work—regulatory writing, scientific publications, health communication, continuing medical education, promotional writing, grants. Our roles in each of these settings and the documents we produce vary so widely that finding the right data to collect and the metrics to analyze has been a challenge. The value markers for each setting are different and, frankly, we’ve been so busy writing and editing that we haven’t taken the time to consider what metrics we should be analyzing.  In 2020, it’s time to get serious.

Our Value in Scientific Publications

Researchers have already identified a handful of value metrics in the area of scientific publications (abstracts, posters, and manuscripts) including:

  • Adherence to reporting requirements
  • Compliance with good publication practices
  • Number of retractions due to misconduct
  • Quality of adverse event reporting
  • Quality of written English
  • Quality and timeliness of the reporting of clinical trial results
The intent of analyzing metrics like these is to demonstrate that support from professional medical communicators improves the quality of scientific publications. The question is what else should we be measuring?

Metrics For the Biopharma Company Setting

In the biopharmaceutical company setting, metrics can convince stakeholders of the value of medical writing teams. In his on-demand webinar, Metrics: Proving Our Value, Daniel Augusto Muriel Ramirez, part of the Business Operations Support Team for Medical Writing at MSD in Bogotá, Colombia, presents a strong case for measuring:

  • Operational productivity
  • Document quality
  • Cycle times
  • Employee performance

If your department isn’t examining metrics like these, now is a good time to start.

Freelancers Need Metrics, Too

Those of us who are freelancers need to collect metrics, as well. At the very least, we need to track all of our time so we know how long it takes to complete the various types of deliverables we create. If we don’t know this information, estimating projects and justifying our hourly rate can be a challenge. In addition, comparing billable versus nonbillable hours will give us a sense of our productivity and efficiency.

Time tracking also enables us to spot client trends and identify those clients that require more time than others to produce similar deliverables. Perhaps they have elaborate review processes or expectations out of the norm that add time to projects. We are diminishing our perceived value if we don’t account for this additional time as we develop our estimates.

The Ultimate Metric: Better Health and Well-Being

The ultimate measure of our value is the ability to get drugs, devices, and treatments into the hands of the people who need them so they can experience better health and well-being. From regulatory documents, to scientific publications, to patient decision aids, to medical education, to grant applications to fund research, every piece of content we create is designed to support that goal.

“Creating clear communications that lead to better health and well-being” is AMWA’s vision statement.  When we can show that our contributions lead to this outcome, our value becomes clear.  


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May 11, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Cynthia L. Kryder, MS, MWC

Cynthia L Kryder, MS, MWC, is a freelance medical communicator who collaborates with clients to craft a variety of medical and health care communications that use the right words for the right audience. She served as the 2018-2019 President of the American Medical Writers Association.