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The Benefits of Hiring In-House Medical Communications Talent in the Era of AI

Posted on July 2023

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​Discussions and debates among Medical Communications (MedComms) professionals are being dominated by AI. How can language-processing AI tools be used to increase their productivity, which tools are best, what are the limitations, and what are the risks?

MedComms professionals play a vital role within life sciences, simplifying complex medical information and accurately translating it for a variety of audiences. AI tools can help MedComms professionals work quicker and produce higher quality content[1], even summarizing research findings, drafting medical reports, or helping teams where English isn’t their first language bring their scientific knowledge to more people.

However, as we learn more about these tools and they continue to evolve by the day, new threats are arising. In the life sciences industry, where brand trust is vital and wrong facts can spell disaster, the negative consequences can be momentous. As AI usage becomes more prevalent, MedComms teams must be aware of the risks, and ensure they are using AI tools correctly.

Having a dedicated in-house MedComms team within your agency or individual specialist project consultants, rather than outsourcing to a consultancy, can be beneficial to organizations looking to mitigate the risks of AI and ensure it is being used correctly.

Here are five threats MedComms professionals must be aware of when using AI tools, and reasons why life sciences companies and MedComms agencies should consider hiring specialised MedComms talent or consultants in an era dominated by the rapid rise of AI:

1. Outdated data

ChatGPT, the most popular tool for generating written content, has only been fed information up to September 2021 at time of writing, so it will not pick up on new industry developments, research, or statistics. As MedComms professionals are usually working on new studies, drugs or devices, it is near-impossible for AI tools to provide up-to-date information to aid with creating new content.

Working with a specialised in-house MedComms team or project consultant, rather than outsourcing to an consultancy, will ensure that your team have lived and breathed the product throughout its entire lifecycle, giving them an in-depth knowledge of the project they are working on. This will allow them to write their own original, detailed, and accurate content, then use AI to produce supporting documents and copy to boost their productivity, rather than risking an outsourced team using AI to generate generic new content. Likewise, through the use of specialised consultants, you save outsourcing costs and utilize time efficiently, as they are working side by side with you in-house as part of the team.

2. Knowledge is power

While AI algorithms can be used to aid research by efficiently scanning through vast databases of medical literature to locate relevant studies or statistics, AI tools commonly used by comms professionals do not have access to the contents of every medical report, book and journal available. Combine this with the previously mentioned knowledge cut-off points, and any MedComms professional relying on AI too heavily will be missing out on a wealth of industry knowledge and sources. We asked ChatGPT if it had access to medical journals, and this is what it said:

“My responses are generated based on a mixture of licensed data, data created by human trainers, and publicly available data. I have been trained on a wide range of data sources, including books, websites, and other texts, to develop a broad understanding of human language. It is possible that the content I generate may include information from medical journals or studies that have been published in the public domain. However, it's important to note that while I strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, my responses may not always reflect the most current research or medical guidelines. Medical knowledge is constantly evolving, and new studies can emerge that may change the understanding or treatment of certain conditions. Therefore, it's always a good idea to refer to reputable medical sources for the latest research findings.”

Specialised consultants in this space, who can bridge this gap and work in-house, have access to a collaborative environment where colleagues care deeply about their project. Therefore, they are more likely to share relevant studies and articles with each other, sparking ideas to improve content that is most beneficial to the business.

3. Adding the human touch

As more content is being created and published with the use of AI tools, it is becoming easier to identify when content has been generated by it – for example, overuse of key words or phrases, very broad or generic statements with no originality, and a lack of logical flow.

William Paton, Senior Vice President at EPM Scientific, recently attended a seminar about ChatGPT and its impact on Medical Affairs at MAPS Lisbon. This particular comment resonated with him: “We should use AI as a co-pilot into our workflow, but not use it externally with HCPs for example”. Essentially, the tool can make us more time efficient when it comes to more mundane tasks, freeing up time for more impactful work. However, the human touch element remains as a fundamental part of the process.

Ultimately, in-house team members or consultants need to be embedded into a company’s culture and values, to naturally add company keywords, tone of voice, and flair when writing content.

4. Protect your brand reputation

AI tools like ChatGPT collect comments from social media and news articles among its many sources. This can cause incorrect narratives or information to be presented as facts, which if not fact-checked before publishing could be disastrous for brand reputation. This feature can also cause negative sentiments or bad PR to be amplified, so when people use ChatGPT to find out information about your company or product, they will be supplied with negative or inaccurate information.

A range of different audiences rely on the information MedComms professionals provide, be it expert KOLs to the everyday person on the street, and publications from reliable sources are the beating heart of MedComms. With misinformation being such a prevalent topic in today’s work, the correct application of AI needs to be taken with the upmost responsibility.

Using a specialised consultant, who has the insight into how these tools work and can maximize usability, will allow you to work more directly throughout the content production process to ensure that all new content created is correct and has been fact-checked. They can also proactively prepare crisis communications and actively monitor social media and consumer sentiment, so that in the rare chance of receiving public negativity you could save your brand or company reputation before news become more mainstream.

5. Keep track of evolving AI threats

The risks that AI tools present to MedComms teams discussed above will rapidly evolve – new AI tools are being published weekly, constantly bringing both new threats and opportunities. For instance, Google was the seventh established search engine but is the most widely used today. What’s to say that the biggest AI tool MedComms professionals use ten years from now has even been invented yet?

Despite the worries many comms professionals have about AI replacing them, they will never be able to replicate the soft skills needed to be able to match humans’ quality of work. However, MedComms professionals may find their jobs at risk from others who understand and utilize AI tools better than them. We can identify expert MedComms consultants or specialists for your organization who can keep track of AI tools, understand and overcome emerging risks, avoid costly mistakes, save time, and provide a competitive advantage as AI becomes ever-more prevalent.

How EPM Scientific can help

EPM Scientific’s specialist talent team combines cutting-edge industry expertise with our extensive global database of highly qualified MedComms professionals available for permanent and contract roles. We can help you find the perfect MedComms candidate or consultant with the knowledge to use AI tools safely and keep track of the risks to help your business thrive.

As a specialist life sciences talent partner, EPM Scientific helps clients with hiring within 3 different verticals in MedComms:

  • Scientific Services - including Medical Writers and Scientific Directors

  • Client Services - including Accounts and Project Managers

  • Digital & Creative Services – including Creative Directors, UX Designers and Digital Consultants

If you’re looking to hire MedComms talent, find out more about how we can support you by requesting a call back from our experts today.