What is Medical Writing?

Updated on July 25th, 2022
What is Medical Writing?

Are you wondering what comes under the umbrella of medical writing? Then you are at the right place. 

Medical writing is developing and producing digital or print documents that deal with health care or medicine. A medical writing career calls for proficiency in science and writing, combining a writer's visionary talent with the detail and rigor of research and scientific methodology.

What is the Purpose of Medical Writing?

With the constant innovation and advancement in medicine and health care, the need to write scientific documents is growing, which is why medical journal editors and writers are in high demand, as communication about research findings, devices, services, and products is growing. 

Depending on the scope and position of their duties, medical writers communicate clinical and scientific data to many audiences, from doctors and nurses to patients. 

As a result, the medical writing market is growing as they work in various formats, consisting of electronic publications to traditional print publications, multimedia presentations, videos, websites, and social media websites.

Medical writers often work with scientists, doctors, and other subject matter experts (SMEs) to create papers that explain research results, product use, and other medical information.

Medical publication professionals also ensure that documents comply with regulatory measures, publication, or other content, format, and structure guidelines.

Medical communicators are editors, writers, project managers, media relations specialists, health care journalists, supervisors, educators, and more. 

At their core, they are incredibly proficient at collecting, managing, analyzing, assessing, and often presenting convoluted information to a public audience, health care professionals, or industry professionals such as users of medical devices, hospital purchasers, manufacturers, pharmaceutical sales representatives, members of the insurance industry, and public policy officials.

Medical Writing Examples

There are many examples of medical writing. Such as: 

Regulatory Medical Writing

Working in this domain, you will be writing documents that are part of the development process for medical drugs or devices. This will take the form of clinical trial study reports, marketing applications, or regulatory documents regarding drug release. 

Of course, you will need a good knowledge of the law, particularly medical regulations. Still, if it is a fast-paced environment that you are looking for and the chance to work on the latest pharmaceutical developments, this will be an extremely rewarding career path. 

Medical Communications Writing

There is a little overlap here, but the key difference is that medical communications writing happens through an agency that outsources its services to pharmaceutical companies. 

Whether working from home or office-based, you will be doing everything from writing legal and regulatory documentation to tackling marketing and advertisements for the latest drugs. A large part of this job will involve information dissemination and writing documents that inform doctors and patients about the latest drug or device and how to use it.

Medical Writing Translation

Translation is a smaller field within medical writing but no less important. Put your language skills to use as a highly sought-after medical writer translating clinical and technical documents into different languages.

Medical translators are particularly important for clinical trials where they'll translate the medical text for patients, clinicians, and representatives of regulatory organizations. The majority of leading medical research is in English. 

Still, with a considerable amount of text published in French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish, there is a real demand for medical writers who are fluent in these languages and want to help increase the global information pool.

Medical Writing Benefits

There are many advantages of having people capable of medical writing. 

Working with medical writers has many benefits. Such as, independent preparation with speed and agility, high-quality targeted documents, lower company workload and cost, and compliance with regulatory requirements, to name a few. 

Publications produced by professional medical writers are:

  • Well-written
  • More likely to be accurate and complete
  • Less likely to be retracted
  • Compliant with reporting guidelines

Moreover, Acknowledging medical writers shows:

  • Accountability
  • Integrity
  • Transparent and Responsible reporting in publications and presentations

Essential Medical Writing Features

Medical communication is a flexible, rewarding, and well‑paying career in a growing field of both full‑time and freelance opportunities. Some of the essential features of medical writing are:

  • Basic Grammar and Usage

Speech and grammatical tenets form the footing of writing in every discipline. For example, are you able to identify a dangling modifier or notice the lack of a pronoun referent?

  • Sentence Structure

Even if you know grammar, you need a refresher on achieving emphasis and organizing your sentences for clarity. For example, do you know the difference between an independent and a dependent clause? Do you understand parallel structure?

  • Punctuation

A single misplaced comma creates a very different meaning, which has serious importance in medical writing. Are all your commas in the correct places? What about your semicolons?

  • Medical Terminology

It is not sufficient to know about medical terms. You get more insight into medical vocabulary by learning about the combining forms, prefixes, and suffixes that create all your favorite medical words. For example, do you know the difference between an acronym and an initialism? Do you know the rules for eponyms?

  • Ethics

Every professional field has a code of ethics, and medical writing and communication are no different. Make sure you are aware of the steps to ethical decision‑making and the ethical principles to uphold.

  • Statistics

When working with medical research, it is essential to have a basic understanding of statistics. For example, can you define a hazard ratio? Can you explain the difference between mean, median, and mode?

  • Tables and Graphs

Tables and graphs are mandatory tools for communicating complex information. But, do you know if your table column headings are doing their job? Or what graph to use for continuous data? 

Medical Writing Tips

Here are some tips that help prospective and emerging medical writers.

  • Rewriting the topic brief yourself will enable you to digest the information better and highlight any necessary points you missed initially.
  • Investigate the research, especially about the type of writing you have to produce. If it is vague, then look at alternate versions - both standalone and in the context of scientific papers, so that you understand the writing format required to produce. If it is a slide deck, see if you are able to find similar examples to help you understand their process.
  • Stick to the brief by following the instructions. Do not go off tangent.
  • Highlight your creative side throughout the Medical Writer examination. Some workplaces endorse and credit creativity more than others, but this will be evident from the brief.
  • Aim to keep the reader engaged and include enough detail to inspire credibility.
  • Your writing must show clarity and be coherent with a logical flow throughout. By understanding the content, you can achieve this by keeping sentences easy to follow, concise, and simple.
  • All data needs to be accurate and clear.
  • You will more than likely complete several Medical Writer articles throughout your career, so ask for feedback from clients and your audience and keep them on file for future opportunities.

Conclusion 

Medical writing is one of the most in-demand resources in the healthcare industry today. At every step of medical research or product development, a writing exercise is one you will be familiar with. 

People in companies spend hours trying to put together a coherent research report or days trying to finish an application for a grant. Teams spend precious time and energy putting together a 100-page regulatory document. 

A professional medical writer is able to utilize those hours and take on the job of developing communications that meet regulatory, ethical, and legal standards. So, all in all, you need knowledge in both writing and medical science and combine your creative writing talent with the details of the scientific research process to become a successful medical writer.

FAQs

What is the Difference Between Medical and Health Writing?

There is not a significant difference between medical and health writing. While health writing is affiliated with consumer writing, medical writing relates more to academic and scientific writing.

The slight distinction is:

  • Health is a broad term. It relates to diet, lifestyle, wellbeing, and socio-economic factors – as well as treating and preventing symptoms and diseases.
  • Medicine and medical are terms relating to the diagnoses, treatment, and prevention of disease. Medicine also refers to medications, i.e., drugs.

What is the Difference Between Medical and Scientific Writing?

Medical writing is a much more specialized area of scientific writing. Whereas scientific writing is writing about science regardless of whether it is about medicine, chemistry, physics, and more. Thus, all medical writers are science writers, but all science writers are not medical writers.

Scientific Writing is Regulatory Writing. It involves technical documents like the common technical document (CTD), Periodic Safety Update Reports (PSUR), Clinical Study Reports (CSR), etc., that are involved in a clinical trial.

Medical Writing is Non-Regulatory Writing. It involves an extensive literature search, research paper writing, poster designing, content development, etc.

What is the Difference Between Medical Writing and Medical Transcription?

The work of a medical writer includes developing and creating advertising copy for pharmaceuticals and other products, such as Internet content, journal abstracts and articles, medical education materials, monographs, CD-ROMs, newsletters, patient education materials, posters, sales training manuals, slide kits, white papers, medical scripts, multimedia projects, regulatory documents, physician speeches and presentations, case reports, etc. 

Whereas, a medical transcriptionist is concerned with the mechanical duty of developing transcribed reports.

Medical writing involves disseminating scientific and clinical data and information to various audiences in various formats. It is a form of written communication of scientific knowledge customized to the target audience.

However, medical transcription convert voice-recorded reports by physicians and other healthcare professionals dictate into text format. Medical transcriptionists perform document typing and formatting functions according to established format or criteria, transcribing the word of the patient's care details into a documented and easily readable form.

What is the Difference Between Medical Writing and Medical Coding?

Medical coding involves changing definitions of medical procedures and diagnoses into versatile medical code numbers. 

These code numbers are for various purposes like reimbursements, statistical analysis of therapeutic actions and diseases, and direct surveillance of pandemic or epidemic outbreaks. Most of the outsourced tasks include coding for insurance reimbursements. The diagnoses and procedures are usually from various sources within the medical record, such as the transcription of the doctor's notes, radiologic results, laboratory results, and other sources.

This associated health profession is significantly different from medical writing. Medical writing is more creative and involves research, analysis, and communication of the obtained information in varied forms as per the audience.

A medical coder requires knowledge of medical terminologies and a general understanding of diseases. However, a medical writer needs to have a wide variety of skills to write on various topics and for different target groups. Medical coding is more of a mechanical work when compared to the creativity involved in medical writing.

What Are Some Specialised Types of Medical Writing?

Medical writing is a vast field. You can choose the type of medical writing depending on the purpose. Following are some common types of medical writing: 

Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Writing

  • Clinical trial publications
  • Clinical trial protocols
  • Study reports
  • Consumer medicine/device information
  • Product marketing

Contract Research Writing

  • Preclinical research reports
  • Clinical trial protocols
  • Participant information and consent forms
  • Study reports
  • Clinical trial publications

Healthcare Organisations and Institutions Writing

  • Hospitals, health insurance companies, not-for-profit, private practices
  • Educational content
  • Health promotional content
  • Clinical research publications
    • Case reports, case series, cohort studies
  • Conference abstracts and presentations
  • Grant writing
  • Patient stories

Government Agencies and Regulatory Writing

  • Regulatory documents
    • Clinical data and literature summaries
    • Protocols
    • Annual safety reports
  • Post-marketing documents
  • Consumer medicine/device information

Medical Publication Writing

  • Medical/scientific journals, book publishers
  • Manuscript proofreading
  • Copyediting

Medical Communications and Marketing Writing

  • Health promotional content
  • Educational information
  • Marketing materials
  • Website content
  • Social media content
  • Slide decks

Medical Journalism Writing

  • Health/medical/scientific news articles
  • Patient stories
  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Transcripts

Which Fields are Looking for Medical Writing Experts?

Medical writers find positions with various employers, reaching audiences with different communication needs and styles. 

These include:

  • Associations and professional health care societies
  • Authors or investigators
  • Biotechnology companies
  • Clinical or contract research organizations (CROs)
  • Communications, marketing, or advertising agencies
  • Government agencies
  • Health care organizations or providers
  • Medical book publishers
  • Medical device companies
  • Medical education companies
  • Medical schools or universities
  • News outlets for health/medical news
  • Peer‑reviewed medical journals
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Trade journals for health care professionals

Can you Become a Medical Writer Without Experience?

There is no fixed formal entry point into the medical writing career, but every medical writer must have a fundamental understanding of life science concepts and terms. 

However, it goes without saying that many types of medical writing exist through a deeper understanding of the topic at hand. In addition, increasing your learning of various medical specialties builds a strong basis for examining critical health-related concepts with your planned audience. 

Moreover, understanding the deliberation process for narcotics and medical devices, alongside the complicated reporting conditions put forth by diverse regulatory bodies, is especially important for writers who produce regulatory records. 

Do you Need to Understand Math for Medical Writing?

The answer is no, but medical writers perform a great variety of analyses, from industry to data analysis. Regardless of their nook, medical writers scan countless documents and condense large quantities of knowledge into concise, clear, and honest content that reads well to their audience. 

When summarizing the outcomes of research studies, statistics are almost always critical to the original authors' discoveries and succeeding conclusions. Therefore, a basic familiarity with t-tests, P values, and regression analyses is elemental for all medical writers, especially those accountable for reporting the results of clinical studies.

Is Everyone In Medical Writing a Doctor?

There is no fixed formal entry point into the medical writing career. Although many medical writers belong to the following backgrounds:

University Graduates

  • A bachelor's degree in health science, biomedical science, or biotechnology.
  • Many employers pursue writers with a graduate degree (PhD or master's).
  • A degree or certification in science, medical, journalism, or health communication.

Clinicians

  • Some medical practitioners, including specialist physicians and GPs, are interested in sharing their experience and knowledge and do medical writing on the side or transitioning into the profession.

Other Healthcare Professionals

  • Nurses, dieticians, physical therapists, and other allied health professionals also engage in medical writing or transition into the profession.

Is Medical Writing Always Outsourced?

Medical writing is no longer done in-house, even at clinical research firms or pharmaceutical companies. 

With more writers getting specialization and gaining an understanding of medical writing blunders to avoid, it makes sense to outsource those needs. 

Each placement company puts people through evaluations to prove their competency as medical writers. Freelance medical writers establish their value through their work and testimonials for past clients, and tests of their regulatory compliance and medical knowledge.

Successfully outsourcing medical writing requires choosing medical writers who don't only understand the needs of each document but are also experienced coordinators and challenge clinical teams to present a clear, well-constructed story. 

The key to success in outsourcing medical writing lies in frequently communicating, working together, integrating the writers onto the clinical team, and sharing pleasing and inadequate experiences to maintain and develop a mutually advantageous relationship.