It's fun to look back over the years and think about fashion trends that probably never should have seen the light of day. I’m thinking mullets, shoulder pads, and why not throw in bell bottoms while I’m at it.
Although fashion trends come and go, trends in medical communication usually point toward practices that are here to stay. We can’t afford to ignore industry trends if we want to remain fresh and relevant. Whether we are employees or freelances, we never want to become stale, and staying on top of business trends should be part of our jobs.Workplace Trends Affecting Medical Communicators
Medical communicators are expected to perform their jobs in an ever-changing environment. It’s a constant juggle to balance regulatory requirements with organizational demands to streamline processes, operate cost effectively, and do more with less. When AMWA convened its inaugural Medical Writing Executives Forum in November 2018, we asked executives who recruit, train, and manage professional medical communicators to identify the trends having the biggest effect on their medical writing teams. Rising to the top of their list were automation and artificial intelligence (AI), remote work and outsourcing, and the need for writers to have soft skills and emotional intelligence. Let’s look at these trends more closely.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence
Medical writers working in the regulatory setting already use standardized document templates for many of the documents they create. With the recent TransCelerate collaboration, companies around the globe are working together to support even more standardization that will allow for automation across related documents within a company and even across the industry. Be prepared!
AI goes a step further. If you’re concerned that AI might replace you, don’t be. The managers we talked to explained that AI is intended to remove the drudgery involved with creating certain components of regulatory documents, while allowing writers to focus on more engaging aspects of document creation. And that’s a good thing, as long as medical communicators are empowered to provide input when these systems are being developed.
Remote Work and Outsourcing
The trend of remote work and outsourcing will continue and here’s why. Remote work provides a larger pool of talented writers and offers writers a quiet space where they can do their work in an uninterrupted way. On the flip side, remote work presents its own unique set of challenges. The reality is that it can be difficult to assert authority when you don’t work face to face.
Where opportunities for face-to-face meetings are few, companies are starting to leverage technology to build relationships among remote team members. So dust off your webcam and prepare to see and communicate with your colleagues in real time. You can still wear your bunny slippers but you may want to rethink the pajamas.
Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence
Technical skills and scientific knowledge are no longer enough. Managers want writers who add value because they possess the soft skills and emotional intelligence that enable them to lead, negotiate, and resolve conflicts. The days of being able to write as a lone entity are over. There’s a demand for writers who can think critically, communicate effectively, solve problems, manage their time well, and work collaboratively with other professionals.
Emotional intelligence is that little something-something that involves being aware of emotions, using emotions when thinking and problem solving, and regulating your emotions and the emotions of others, that is, the ability to comfort and calm someone else.
As for managing others' emotions, there will be times when a client or colleague will freak out for whatever reason and the conversation goes off the rails. Your ability to stay calm and recognize the other person’s emotions and irrational behavior will enable you to defuse the situation. If you’re good at talking people off the ledge, you likely have high emotional intelligence.
Listening to Industry Leaders Guides Our Content Development
Last year’s Medical Writing Executives Forum gave AMWA the opportunity to engage industry leaders who are affected every day by these industry trends and challenges—and the trends I’ve discussed here aren’t the only ones coming our way. The executives mentioned others that are changing the way they work, including lean authoring, more lay-oriented documents, and increased clinical-trial complexity, to name a few.
AMWA wants medical communicators to be prepared and able to do their jobs well in the face of these changes. Consequently, we’ll debut several new workshops at the 2019 Medical Writing & Communication Conference in San Diego that were developed based on feedback from industry leaders. Check out the annual conference program and you’ll see we now offer workshops on lean authoring, as well as writing lay summaries. We’ll also have an education session on AI and demonstrations of some AI tools. If you want to see what AI is all about, this is your chance.
We’ll be meeting with biopharma executives again in San Diego in November when we convene the second Medical Writing Executives Forum. We’re eager to hear what they have to tell us about the future of medical writing and new developments that have the potential to further transform medical communication.