Harnessing innovation: The importance of understanding when and how to use it in medical communications

12 October 2023

The pandemic challenged us to rethink conventional med comms practices. Bringing innovative medical communication solutions to our clients has become an essential part of every proposal and every account we work on, but it’s so much more than employing the latest technology and ideas. So, let’s take a step back and look at how recent years have changed innovation in med comms and what that might mean for 2024 and beyond.

Innovation in practice

Innovation is one of those words which means very different things to different people. To some, it’s all about being new and creative, but to others, it has much more ‘disruptive’ connotations. It can also mean innovative application, where successful and established approaches from other fields are applied elsewhere, such as the broadcast medical education approach that has revolutionised our webinars into something more akin to TV programming than the pre-COVID face-to-face meetings they replaced. However, the term is applied so liberally and generically in both clients’ requests for proposal and agencies’ pitches and programme design that, ultimately, its impact is lost.

We believe innovation starts with a new way of tackling a client’s challenge: a strategy, approach or tactic that can be used to meet the objectives of a programme in a better way. Sometimes the change to an existing way of doing things may be incremental and at other times dramatic – regardless, the goal is successful implementation and ultimately the creation of value for our clients.

Moving with the times

The pharmaceutical industry devotes a significant proportion of its spend to sales and marketing,1 clearly demonstrating the value it places in med comms. The global medical writing market size was valued at $3.8 billion in 2022 and is expected to continue expanding over the next decade.2 Companies will be considering where to focus their investment and how this can be optimised. Unsurprisingly, innovation has become a key part of the med comms offering, with the pandemic driving technological advances and an omnichannel approach that caters to the way HCPs are now consuming their medical education.

2023: A time to reflect
“It sometimes feels like there has been more change in the last 3 years than in the previous 20, it has provided us with renewed energy to challenge ourselves to think harder before doing things the way we used to

James Seed, Director at Wave Healthcare Communications

The med comms industry has seen some brilliant advances in technology and creative solutions to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Digital events have increased by 600% relative to pre-pandemic levels, and 58% of HCPs say they prefer this format.3 Innovations include custom platforms for interactive hybrid events,4 Bluetooth beacons that enhance user experience while gathering data on engagement,5 and virtual and augmented reality technology for immersive events and educational experiences,6,7 to name a few.

The importance of agencies staying up to date and aware of the latest trends and developments cannot be overstated. However, now that we’ve had some time to reflect on the pandemic approach, where fast innovation was essential, let’s make sure we don’t lose sight of what we’re trying to achieve.

Understanding our audience and catering to their needs

It’s essential that we start by truly understanding our audience and how best to engage them, clarifying what we are aiming to achieve, and considering all avenues. There may be times when traditional approaches still provide valuable and cost-effective solutions. We should always strive to make things better, but this improvement should be pursued for the right reasons and be balanced with any cost–benefit trade-offs associated with innovation.

The audience should be at the heart of any med comms programme, whether they are an HCP or a patient. Awareness of evolving customer habits, environments and needs is crucial to understanding whether and how to use innovation to reach them. For example, apps such as those provided by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services suit young people who regularly gravitate towards their smartphones throughout the day when looking for short bursts of mental stimulation.8,9 For busy clinicians who don’t have time to sit at their computers and watch long videos, bitesize resources that address their key clinical questions that can be accessed on the go are a great way to reach them.10 Getting the right information in the right way to the right person is more important than using the latest technology.

The Wave approach

We are huge enthusiasts for bringing innovative approaches and technologies into practice where they can enhance our programmes to make them either more compelling, more efficient or both.

Part of our role as a strategic partner to our clients is to keep an eye on the horizon at all times, be aware of the latest technology and thinking, evaluate potential and value, anticipate future needs, and be proactive and agile in response to change. It’s our job to be poised and ready to implement innovation where appropriate by having the knowledge, skills and connections with industry providers at our fingertips. This approach forms part of our ‘clinically relevant thinking’ process and our commitment to delivering compelling programmes that address the needs of clinicians and help them improve the lives of their patients.

  1. AHIP 2021. New Study: In the Midst of COVID-19 Crisis, 7 out of 10 Big Pharma Companies Spent More on Sales and Marketing than R&D, accessed October 2023 at www.ahip.org.news/articles.
  2. GVR 2023. Medical Writing Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Type (Clinical, Regulatory), By Application (Medical Journalism, Medico Marketing), By End Use, By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2023 – 2030, accessed October 2023 at www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis.
  3. Veeva 2023. The new rules of pharma events: Handbook for success in the hybrid era, accessed October 2023 at www.veeva.com/resources.
  4. Floor 2023. 7 reasons why you need a hybrid event platform in 2023, accessed October 2023 at www.floor.bz/blog.
  5. IMS technology services. What are beacons and why would I want them at my events?, accessed October 2023 at www.imsts.com.
  6. Meeting tomorrow. An intro to VR in the meetings and events industry, accessed October 2023 at www.meetingtomorrow.com/blog.
  7. Pottle J. Future Healthcare Journal. 2019;6(3):181–185.
  8. Subramanian KR. International Journal of Trend in Research and Development. 2018;5(3):1–6.
  9. CAHMS. CAHMS Resources – Apps, accessed October 2023 at www.camhs-resources.co.uk.
  10. Berk J, et al. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2020;35:2176–2178.

If you think Wave would be a good fit to support you with your next project and you would like to hear more about how the team can help you, please get in touch at: James@wavehealthcare.co.uk

Wave is a global healthcare communications agency. We combine scientific, medical and brand expertise to deliver clinically focussed programmes which are trusted by HCPs and drive better patient outcomes. To find out more about us, click here.