When looking to hire a medical writer, ask each provider these 8 questions so that you are confident you are comparing apples to apples.
There are several professional organizations that offer certificates or certifications related to medical writing, scientific editing, and publishing. These programs provide evidence that the person meets (inter)nationally recognized standards for professional practice. You may also want to ask what degrees (in what fields) the person has, if this is relevant to your needs.
AIM’s response: I am a Certified Medical Publication Professional (CMPP) and hold a PhD in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University and an Essential Skills Certificate from the American Medical Writers Association.
Medical communication spans many different fields, such as marketing, education, publications, and regulatory documents. Some writers are experienced in multiple fields, others prefer to specialize in one area. The most important thing is that the writer has experience working on your type of document. The writer should provide samples of prior work and you should review the samples for content and coherence.
AIM’s response: I have worked extensively on the documents listed in Services and am happy to provide samples. If I feel that I don’t have the expertise to work on your project, I will gladly refer you to a trusted colleague who does.
Medical writers may give you a quote for work in time (per hour, per diem), in quantity of material (per page, per word, per slide), or one quote for the whole project. Note whether revisions are included in the quote. If you have a particularly short deadline, you may be charged a rush fee. Paying bottom dollar may leave you with troubling results.
As a benchmark, the American Medical Writers Association salary survey indicated that the average hourly rates charged by full-time freelance writers was $112 (n = 451) (in 2014 dollars).
AIM’s response: Because every project and author are unique, I do not have a set rate per hour or per project. The level of writing and, therefore, the time needed to complete a project vary. I can tailor my level of work to your needs and we can work within a budget that you have determined. If you have a particular project for which you would like a quote, please email me.
Does their estimate seem reasonable for this type of document? Beware of someone who tells you they can finish the project much sooner than your estimate or that of any other medical writer. What you gain in time you may lose in quality.
AIM’s response: I always deliver my clients’ documents by the deadline agreed upon. In the final step of a project, I review the entire document to confirm that the results meets my high standards for quality. Projects have a turn-around time from 24 hours (for editing) to several weeks (to create complex manuscripts or lengthy educational materials).
Many professional organizations have crafted guidelines to maintain consistency and transparency for medical writing documents. A medical writer should be familiar with guidelines that are relevant to your document. Failing to adhere to these guidelines could cause delays in approving the documents or a rejected manuscript.
AIM’s response: When preparing clients’ documents, I consult data reporting guidelines (eg, EQUATOR) and publication guidelines (eg, COPE, GPP3, ICMJE, PhRMA) to ensure accurate and complete information. I work with style guides from the American Medical Association and the Council of Science Editors.
Medical writers have a responsibility to accurately and objectively convey scientific information. They should respect the confidentiality of any material provided to them, unless otherwise stated. The communicator should be familiar with professional ethical statements, such as the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) Code of Ethics. Professional medical communicators are distinguished from ghostwriters by ensuring that the authors control the content and the communicator’s contribution is acknowledged (Woolley, 2006).
AIM’s response: As a member of AMWA, I use the Code of Ethics to guide my professional conduct, from the type of projects on which I work to how I prepare my client’s documents. I understand how important it is to present accurate and objective information to the scientific community.
To perform the tasks efficiently, writers should be intimately familiar with Microsoft Word. Depending on your needs, you may want to look for somebody who is skilled with software for reference management, data analysis, image processing, or presentations, to name a few.
AIM’s response: To achieve my clients’ goals, I rely on a suite of software programs including Microsoft Office products, EndNote, Mendeley, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Acrobat Pro, GoToMeeting, , R, IgorPro, and iMovie.
You want to hire a medical writer who can speak and write fluently in the language in which the document is written. Publishers, companies, and regulatory agencies want documents to have a native voice and will likely return or reject something that doesn’t. It will be apparent from a phone conversation or an email exchange if the writer is a fluent speaker.
AIM’s response: I am a native of Connecticut and have been educated at US-based research universities. Through ongoing education, I maintain my proficiency of written English.