The healthcare communications industry offers a wealth of career opportunities for people with an academic background and a flair for writing. Here we take a closer look at what healthcare communications is, the different areas you can specialise in and the skills and experience you might need to get your foot in the door.
In short, healthcare communications – sometimes referred to as med comms – is an umbrella term covering the professional services which raise awareness of the products and activities of the pharmaceutical industry.
The healthcare communications field is split into many different specialisms, but essentially they are all trying to achieve the same goal, which is to educate and inform stakeholders about the latest innovations and perspectives in healthcare.
Your quick guide to careers in healthcare communications
Public relations (PR)
Public relations is the arm of healthcare communications which primarily deals with the media, including trade and consumer publications, broadcast (TV and radio) and more recently, social media channels. Healthcare PR covers everything from writing press material, dealing with media enquiries and creating patient awareness campaigns, to media launches for new products or clinical data, and issues management.
Medical education (MedEd)
Medical education is focused on activities which engage and inform a variety of stakeholders, including doctors, nurses, healthcare/clinical professionals and patient groups. The work covers disease education, as well as information on new drugs and therapies and people working in MedEd, may produce publications, journals, conference presentations and other informative materials, set up training and information sessions and attend medical congresses.
Policy and Public Affairs
Policy makers are an increasingly important audience for the pharma industry, therefore it’s vital that drug companies are able to demonstrate the value and health economics of their products to the people making decisions about treatment options for patients. Those working in healthcare policy and public affairs focus on influencing the decision makers (including the NHS and MPs), to ensure the widest possible adoption of a pharma product and greater access for patients.
Healthcare advertising focuses on getting a pharma product noticed by the people that will be using or prescribing it. Advertising includes anything from producing trade and consumer press adverts, digital advertising and sales collateral, to direct mail and exhibition stand materials. The regulations surrounding the advertising of pharmaceutical products are very stringent, so this role calls for compliance balanced with creativity.
A strategic consultancy within the healthcare communications sector will offer pharma companies counsel on how best to identify and overcome their challenges. This counsel may include corporate and commercial strategy advice, market research and sales analytics, to offer clients a well-rounded view of what is needed for commercial success.
Sometimes referred to as patient access, this area of specialism focuses on the challenge of ensuring patients have access to the innovative pharma products of their choosing. Work in this area looks at the barriers they face when requesting a trial for a new medicine or therapy and develops strategies to educate and change the status quo to benefit the clinical needs of the patient. This area is closely linked to policy and public affairs activities.
Skills and experience
Most people enter healthcare communications with a strong academic background or relevant work experience. For entry level positions this is often a science degree, but depending on the specialism a PR or politics degree may also be a good foot in the door as would experience in journalism, the NHS, Government or another related field. If you haven’t done any writing in a professional capacity, writing a blog in your spare time or doing some writing for a university magazine or website could also demonstrate your potential.
For more senior positions, the usual entry benchmark is a PhD in a life sciences subject, possibly with a post-doctorate, but other science and health-related degrees may be considered alongside a post-graduate qualification or relevant work experience.
As well as a well-rounded scientific knowledge, successful candidates in healthcare communications will have excellent communication skills, be a good writer, have an eye for detail, and be comfortable with research and statistics.
Does this sound like you? If so, we want to hear from you. Get in touch.