Medical writing involves writing scientific documents of different types which include regulatory and research-related documents, disease or drug-related educational and promotional literature, publication articles like journal manuscripts and abstracts, content for healthcare websites, health-related magazines or news articles. The scientific information in these documents needs to be presented to suit the level of understanding of the target audience, namely, patients or general public, physicians or the regulators.
Medical writers require an understanding of the medical concepts and terminology, knowledge of relevant guidelines as regards the structure and contents of specific documents, and good writing skills.
Various Types of Medical Writing
Medical writing involves writing different types of documents for different purposes, and for different audiences. Following are the different types of medical writing based on target audience:
1. Medical Journalism
- Newspaper & magazine articles. These are mostly for general public and lay people and need to be written in simple, non-technical language.
2. Medical Education
- For Physicians – textbooks, Continued Medical Education (CME) programs, slide decks, e-learning modules
- For Patients – patient education material
3. Medical marketing of healthcare products
- Promotional literature targeted at healthcare professionals, product monographs, brochures, handouts
- Sales force training manuals, e-learning modules
- Internet content for physicians and patients (consumers)
- Journal articles / manuscripts (research articles, case reports, review articles)
- Posters & presentations for scientific meetings and conferences
5. Research Documents
- Clinical trial protocols
- Investigators′ Brochure
- Informed Consent Documents
- Study reports
- Research proposals
6. Regulatory Documents
- Package Inserts (prescribing information) & Patient Information Leaflets
- Clinical study reports, web synopses
- Subject narratives
- Regulatory submission documents – Common Technical Document (CTD) modules such as nonclinical and clinical overviews & summaries, expert reports, safety & efficacy summaries; Aggregate safety reports such as Periodic Safety Update Reports ( PSURs), bridging reports, Periodic Adverse Drug Experience Reports (PADER), Annual safety reports (ASR)s; policy papers etc.
Each of the above types of medical writing is meant for a different audience and hence the language and technical information used should be tailored to the understanding level of specific audiences. For example, documents meant for a medical professional will be littered with technical jargon which would be inappropriate for a patient who needs pre-digested information without the technical jargon.
Hence, one medical writer who is conversant with medical regulatory writing might be totally discomfited by magazine and newspaper articles for the general public. It is therefore possible to specialize in a specific type of medical writing, depending on one’s aptitude and liking.
Get started in Medical Writing as a Career Option
If you are interested in medical writing and would like to get started with medical writing as a career, you will find valuable advice in Successful Scientific Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide for the Biological and Medical Sciences