ISMPP 2024 Annual Meeting insights

The 2024 European Meeting of International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) took place in London from January 23–24, themed ‘Innovation: The New Tradition’, proved an invaluable opportunity to discuss key industry topics. 

A banner with text "2024 European Meeting of ISMPP, Innovation, the new tradition, 23-24 January 2024, London UK" with the IMSPP logo in the bottom left corner

Med comms 2030: a blue sky and black cloud perspective 

In keeping with the innovation theme of this year’s meeting, James Dathan (AstraZeneca), Bethany Whalley (Novo Nordisk) and Jocelyn Woodcock (Caudex) held a lively debate- and discussion-filled session that took a unique approach to exploring what medical communications of the future may look like. James championed the blue sky perspective of shiny innovations changing our industry for the better and Bethany sat under a black cloud of reluctance to change and anticipate failures. ​ 

This hour-long journey into the future (no time machine required) was filled with highly topical content, including:  

  • The changing face of manuscripts in 2030 (and how AI may have helped facilitate this change) 

  • How working together with regulators could change current prohibitions around communicating pharma-sponsored trial data and publications on social media 

  • How congresses will be affected by sustainability rules and how we can proactively make changes to creatively adjust 

  • Further patient engagement in publications 

  • How AI has changed and will change the medical communications industry 

So, what can we be doing now to be "future ready?" We can take time to brainstorm, push the envelope and innovate beyond our comfort levels and current capabilities, and collaborate through open dialogue while working together to find creative solutions to common challenges.  

​AI: a "virtual" world of opportunities 

Unsurprisingly, AI was at the forefront of many sessions and discussions. The sessions introduced many different types of AI, with primary focus on generative AI, which uses large language models and large visual models to create new content based on its learning database. Understanding of the learning data, transparency and accountability is key. The need for medically trained large language models, together with the need for the responsible use of AI, is vital. Other important considerations include IP, accuracy and citation, selection of the right model, ease getting started, scalability, systematic literature reviews and plain language summary uses. 

The patient voice at ISMPP 

This year saw the introduction of patient and patient advocate attendees joining medical communications agencies, publishers and pharma at this year’s European meeting via the ISMPP Patient Support Program. This pilot initiative provided the opportunity for patients and advocates to attend the meeting and take part in sessions, allowing their experiences to better inform the medical communications community. 

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate 

One of the key threads running throughout this year’s European meeting was collaboration. Sessions explored the realms of traditional collaboration and with whom, how and when this may change in the future, with the aim of more effective outcomes. Discussions provided viewpoints on collaborations: patient authorship, sustainability, pharma and non-pharma, and cross-functional and diverse teams.  

Successful collaborations highlighted during the session included the ISMPP Plain Language Summary Perspectives working group (inclusive of 29 diverse stakeholders with varied perspectives and expertise, including media, ISMPP, HCPs, patient partners, agencies, journal editors, publishers and pharma) and the ACCORD guidelines, which were developed by a steering committee comprising medical communications agencies, pharma, HCPs, publishers and methodology experts (the ACcurate COnsensus Reporting Document checklist has recently been published in PLOS Medicine.)

Pharma and publications: friend or foe?  

A multidisciplinary panel discussion titled, "The Perception of Pharma and the Role of Publications: One Step Forward or Two Steps Back?" aimed to further our understanding of the current trust level in pharma and how we measure whether that trust is improving. One of the panelists, Helena Williams with CMC Connect, shared the following takeaway: “Being mindful that high science ideally needs to be conducted and published with, for and by (whenever appropriate) patients.” Other considerations included communicating an appropriate evidence-based ’story‘ that clearly demonstrates why data matters, and continuing to make scientific publications more accessible to a broad audience.  

Publication extenders – a strategic approach to extending our reach 

HCPs and other users are increasingly prioritizing short-form content such as downloadable materials, bite-sized facts, infographics, interactive learning, short videos, podcasts, modular lessons and concise webinars. During one of the plenary sessions titled, "Innovation Meets Tradition: The Future of Publication Extenders," a strategic four-stage approach designed to empower medical communications professionals to understand audience needs was shared to set precise communication objectives, optimize outreach and continuously improve the strategy of publication extenders: 

  1. Discover your audience by considering needs, pain points and preferences via audience segmentation and persona development 
  2. Define your communication strategic objectives and select publications via a key messaging framework and publication selection matrix 
  3. Use tactics and channels that will optimize reach and engagement via content ecosystems, search engine optimization guidelines and editorial calendars 
  4. Track actionable and meaningful extender metrics to continuously optimize strategy via definition and analysis of metrics – the GAME framework (Goals, Actions, Metrics, Evaluations) 

Sharing research 

IPG Health Medical Communications was pleased to present several thought-provoking posters at this year’s meeting: 


An image of Emily Messina, CMC Affinity standing beside a presentation board

Emily Messina, CMC Affinity, presented further research (initially presented at last year’s meeting) on improving poster designs for more engagement and accessibility.

An image of Amy Holloway, Caudex, standing beside a presentation board

Amy Holloway, Caudex, presented survey results on barriers and solutions to advancing enhanced publications content (EPC).