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  1. Spotlight on Policy
25 October 2021

A healthy conversation, a healthy career

The pandemic has shown us the value of well communicated science, and it is creating career opportunities

By Charlie Buckwell

When we put our health into the hands of healthcare professionals we want to be confident in their skills, knowledge and training being right up-to-date. The new research and scientific discoveries of today will soon find their way into clinical use. But how effectively that happens is dependent on getting the right information to the right people at the right time, in ways that are highly personal and culturally relevant. This is where expertise in health communications comes in.

Home to the McCann Health and FCB Health agencies, IPG Health is a collective of the world’s best healthcare communication agencies. The network is comprised of 5,000-plus health communication professionals across six continents and expert disciplines.

One such discipline within IPG Health is the important field of medical communications, which includes over 750 experts in our team. The role of medical communications is to help translate complex scientific information, data and evidence into communication programmes. These need to be deeply founded in the science, meaningful to the audience, and must facilitate scientific exchange across healthcare professionals. These programmes clearly need to be engaging, interesting, and support development of medical understanding. We do this important work for a diverse client base that includes the world’s best and most innovative pharmaceutical and biotech companies, all at the forefront of science and health.

Medical practice though is a complex system of human interaction, healthcare infrastructure, belief systems and rapidly evolving evidence, all of which affect how the science translates to everyday clinical practice. Part of our mission is to close the gap between science and practice, and support healthcare professionals in clinical and research settings by ensuring they have the most up-to-date and accurate information, to help healthcare professionals be ready to fight disease with the best medicines and tools available. This in turn improves life for people, making medical communications a fascinating and highly rewarding sector to work in

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on clinical development, how clinical trials work, and how scientific evidence is derived, analysed, communicated and how it then influences decision-making and clinical practice. It has elevated the importance and profile of medical science. There is an appetite for better health communication, and the volume and speed of information is accelerating, as is the expectation of when information will be available.

In this context, the discipline of medical communications is rapidly evolving and adapting, and is becoming increasingly important. The switch to virtual events and, going forward, hybrid events, including scientific congresses, is opening up more possibilities for patient and public involvement, so people have the chance to better understand the science, be included in the process, and put forward their voice in the development of new treatments. We believe that people have a right to understand their disease, and democratisation of health knowledge is an inclusive force for good.

This will continue to evolve into hyper-personalised engagement that adapts in real time to how individuals want to take on board new scientific and medical information. The shift from simply providing information to creating experiential personalised learning is an exciting innovation that will also help cut through information overload and help support more learning in less time.

People in medical communications are passionate about making a positive difference in health. Not everybody can be a doctor, or another healthcare professional. Nor does everyone want to be. But in this field people can utilise their diverse backgrounds, knowledge and skills to make a difference.

These skills include scientific knowledge and expertise, and we have a large world-class team of highly qualified scientific experts. But in addition, medical communications provides opportunities for account managers, project managers, digital experts, creatives and designers, and HR, finance and IT professionals and many others. While many people are unfamiliar with medical communications as a career, it is a rapidly evolving and growing sector with diverse career options.

Medical communications is currently in such demand that we have a shortage of people at all levels, making this a very attractive choice for new people coming into the sector from scientific and non-scientific backgrounds.

We provide well-structured, extensive onboarding and ongoing learning and development for people coming into medical communications. Our career management programme enables people to develop their expertise and leadership skills. Medical communications is a rewarding, innovative and dynamic team environment where people can really have an impact.

Our clients are engaging us in increasingly strategic, long-term planning requiring insight into future developments in medicine. Our people are increasingly involved in considering what kind of new treatments need to be developed in the coming years to meet future medical need and ensure a compelling clinical proposition.

Medical communications is a rewarding career, which helps to ensure new scientific information gets to the people who need it most, and provides the opportunity to make a real impact to the health of our community.

Charlie Buckwell is chief medical communications officer at IPG Health

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