Members of the Oxford PharmaGenesis team in Melbourne recently attended the 2021 Asia Pacific (APAC) meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP), a virtual event held on 9 and 10 September 2021. Oxford PharmaGenesis was a proud Ruby Sponsor of this stimulating meeting, which showcased the latest advances in scientific communications and leadership in the APAC region. The conference featured presentations and panel discussions, led by key experts in medical communications, as well as round-table discussions, which enabled attendees to share ideas in smaller breakout groups.
The event kicked off with an informative keynote address from Kent Thoelke (ICON plc) on the future of clinical trials and data generation in APAC (Figure 1). His address explored how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the decentralization of clinical trials and the use of new technologies, which should become incorporated routinely into studies in the future. He also discussed the possibility that off-site monitoring using mobile devices could improve patient outcome reporting and treatment compliance and the utilization of cloud-based services could enable big data to be easily collected and analysed. Data protection and data integration were highlighted as potential challenges of using innovative technologies in clinical trials.
An engaging panel discussion addressed the changes in publication and communication practices (Figure 2). The panel members discussed how the publishing industry is adapting to accommodate new forms of engagement (e.g. infographics, videos and plain language summaries) as well as open access publishing and transparent peer review, both of which will improve efficiency of research and ethical practices. One evolving shift in scientific communication, further catalysed by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been the increased use and awareness of preprint publications. During the lively discussion, Antoine Bocquet (Springer Nature) noted that “peer review fundamentally changes the quality of an article”. Barry Clarke (Taylor & Francis APAC) added that “preprints are a manifestation of the sharing community, but nothing can replace the peer review”. The question for everyone involved in research and scientific communication therefore remains: how do we balance speed versus trust when it comes to preprints?
Medical communications has traditionally been considered a developing area in the APAC region; however, the region is beginning to leverage its zealous use of digital communications in the medical field, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Henry Shen (McCann Health) showcased online platforms that are now making healthcare more accessible, including apps that help with disease awareness and detection. A key message from this presentation was how important it is for medical communicators to understand cultural nuances when developing content, so that it is appropriate and engaging for the audience.
The meeting ended with a panel discussion on patient centricity, which emphasized the importance of patients as key stakeholders throughout drug development; from the preclinical phase to the post-marketing phase. By championing patient insights, increasing patient involvement (e.g. patient authors and user-group testing of patient materials) and using new practices such as plain language summaries and open access publishing, medical communicators can improve engagement with patients and, ultimately, health outcomes.
The members of the Melbourne Oxford PharmaGenesis team enjoyed the insightful discussions and networking opportunities that the meeting provided and thank ISMPP for organizing this inspiring and thought-provoking event.