by Ginny Vachon, Founder and Principal Medical Writer at Principal Medvantage

Usually, when I am first contacted by a client, they either know they need a medical writer, or they’ve heard they might need one, but aren’t really sure. Of course, because I specialize in medical writing for advisory boards, I have a good sense of why my services are important, but when Cutting Edge Information asked me to write this post, I realized that it was a perfect opportunity to ask my clients their perspectives on how I add value to their meetings. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from advisory boards, it’s that you cannot know if you don’t ask! I hope this article helps anyone who is hosting an upcoming advisory board understand how having an independent medical writer on their team can help them get the most from their meeting.

1) Presence: Having a dedicated medical writer frees every person involved in the meeting to be present. It is impossible to moderate, really hear your advisors, ask meaningful questions, and properly record the meeting proceedings simultaneously. A medical writer can make sure that team members are available to fully engage with advisors.

2) Quality: A fragmented list of ‘what was said’ in a meeting is not sufficient, especially given the resources that go into planning the meeting in the first place! Approximately 70% of my clients contact me because they used a designated note taker, or even sometimes a freelance medical writer, but were not satisfied with what they got. The quality of executive summaries and notes is much higher when there is a dedicated writer with the necessary skill set to create those documents in a way that allows clients to achieve their meeting objectives. For example, a short aside on diagnosis at 2 PM can be included as par of the lengthier conversation at 9 AM; sometimes 10 statements can be summed up in a sentence, other times they cant; and, as simple as this may sound, not everyone can listen and type at the same time!

3) Access: The outcomes of advisory boards can be crucial to numerous departments within an organization. Having a well-written report, rather than someone’s cobbled together notes, permits efficient access. It’s impossible for everyone who is interested to be in the room, and impossible to predict who will be interested in reading gathered insights two months down the road. One client of mine added that it isn’t just that people have access, but that sharing information through a report allows for more coordinated action (his example was commercial and medical affairs).

4) Perspective: Coming from the outside, I am able to hear in a way that isn’t possible for people who are closer to the discussion at hand. I don’t have relationships with the KOLs or ideas about what they might think. I don’t have expectations around what will be uncovered. I don’t have any interpersonal history with the presenters or members of the company’s team. A number of my clients have remarked that my reports are especially helpful two weeks out, when everyone has their own memories of what was said. An objective and well-constructed report provides clarity.

5) Legal: Advisory boards, especially those hosted by medical affairs, must be held to gather insights that would be otherwise unavailable to the company. Having a medical writer present demonstrates to advisors, and anyone else who looks into the matter, that the company’s interest is in gathering insight, not disseminating information. I hadn’t really considered this before one of my clients mentioned it – but once I educated myself on some of the legal aspects of advisory boards, it made sense.

Did I say five ways? I meant six. I could go on all day about the different ways an independent medical writer adds value to an advisory board. I’ve added my personal favorite, productivity, below.

6) Productivity: A good medical writer should bring something to your meeting beyond the deliverable. I was beyond pleased when more than one of my clients told me that I make their ad boards more productive because of the way I interact with their team and their advisors. First, just the presence of a dedicated writer shows advisors that you are committed to hearing them and following up on their contributions. This makes advisors more likely to participate. I am not guessing at this one – I’ve actually had advisors tell me this as well! That’s why, before the meeting, I ask my clients to allow me to introduce myself (I tell them why, of course). Second, I do my best to interact with both advisors and team members in a positive way. Even something as simple as starting conversation over coffee can open people up. Jut like an object in motion tends to stay in motion; a day begun with openness and positivity tends to be that kind of day. Turns out, that’s exactly the type of day that makes for a productive meeting!

So, there you have it. Several ways that having an independent medical writer present at an advisory board ensures that you get the most from your meeting and all the resources that go into planning them!