How to Choose a Medical Writer

When you choose a medical writer for your project, there are several types of skills and expertise to keep in mind. I’ve compiled a short list of questions to consider when you’re hiring a medical writer. In case this is more than an academic exercise for you, I’ve provided my personal answers following each question.

Is the writer familiar with your specific topic (eg, a disease, medical question, or research area)?

It’s not essential to hire a writer who is an expert in your specific subject—but a writer who has a basic familiarity with the field will be able to get up to speed on your project more quickly.

I have the most experience writing about oncology topics, with the most extensive experience writing about breast and prostate cancer. Topics of my previous writing projects include:

  • Cancer biology
  • Predictive and prognostic biomarkers
  • Nutrition and wellness for cancer patients
  • Targeted therapies
  • Therapeutic drugs’ mechanisms of action
  • Diagnostic testing
Has the writer previously written for your target audience?

Medical writers are called upon to produce copy for a broad range of readers, each with very specific needs. Finding the right voice and reading level are critical for successful communication, particularly in the medical industry. When you choose a medical writer, consider whether he or she has the ability to adopt a writing style that will suit your needs.

Is your project aimed at physicians? You need writing that is concise, precise, and uses appropriate medical terminology.

Are you trying to engage women with breast cancer? According to the Institute for Healthcare Advancement, printed patient education materials should be written at a 6th grade reading level or below, but research consistently shows that most patient materials are written at a 10th grade level or higher.1-4

I have experience writing for both medical professionals and nonprofessional audiences. My primary focus has been writing about the complexities of oncology, cancer biology, and medicine for people without a medical background, such as patients and caregivers. I also write training materials and assessment questions for nurses and medical sales teams.

Does the writer have experience writing the type of material you need (eg, web content, journal article, brochure)?

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Is this a writer who can perform under pressure?

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What are this writer’s other strengths and weaknesses?

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References: 1. Health literacy. Institute for Healthcare Advancement website. Accessed March 14, 2014. 2. Cotugna N, Vickery CE, Carpenter-Haefele KM. Evaluation of literacy level of patient education pages in health-related journals. J Community Health. 2005;30(3):213-219. 3. Safeer R, Keenan J. Health literacy: the gap between physicians and patients. Am  Fam Physician. 2005;73(3):463-468. Accessed March 14, 2014. 4. Andrus MR, Roth MT. Health literacy: a review. Pharmacotherapy. 2002;22(3):282-302. Published 2002/03/20. Accessed March 14, 2014.