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You’re faced with a dilemma, you have critical clinical data supporting your new technology based on a recently completed study that you need to communicate to your customers. Unfortunately, the deadline has passed for abstract submissions to key medical meetings where this data would ideally be presented or the timeline to having the data published in a medical journal is too long as a result of the peer-review process…what do you do?

The answer…..develop a white paper reporting the study results.

This blogger has had significant success developing and utilizing white papers to support the rapid communication of information to key target auidences. The key is to understand how white papers fit as a part of a publication strategy, what to avoid when developing white papers, and how white papers can be best positioned to increase the credibility of the data presented using this publication format. I’ll try to provide some insights, from my perspective, on each of these below.

Where Do White Papers Fit as a Part of a Publication Strategy?

White papers can be an essential part of your publication strategy. They don’t, however, replace a publication in a peer-reviewed journal or submitting the information as an abstract to key medical meetings (see my previous post on this topic). They simply allow for getting the word out quickly. The ability to develop and print (hard copy or electronically) white papers in a very short timeline makes them very useful tools towards rapidly communicate information required by customers when making a decision associated with the use or purchase of your novel medical technology.

Sometimes white papers are an effective means of communicating information that would be difficult to have published in a peer-reviewed journal. This might be clinical experience data which was not designed to be a comparative study, results which only show a trend towards improving outcomes due to lack of sufficient statistical power with the study, or economic data based on projected costs which would have a difficult peer-review process.

What to Avoid When Developing White Papers

First, never try to suggest a white paper is more than just a white paper. Make sure the authors understand that their names will be on a white paper and they do not erroneously presume that this is being submitted as a journal publication. If there are plans to eventually submit the data contained in the white paper to a journal, mentioning this intent up front to the authors can help with getting buy in from them.

Another thing to avoid, especially with white papers, is the use of internal authors. Since a white paper will experience increased scruntity since it does not represent “published” data, adding company employee as authors diminishes the ability for the white paper to have any type of credibility with your target audience.

It is also important to avoid making the white paper look like a marketing piece and carry a lot of corporate or product branding. This only serves to reinforces that this is not published data. Leave the branding behind both within the content of the white paper and with how it looks.

A common question I receive is “Won’t we be precluded from submitting a manuscript for publication if we publish the results of our study in a white paper?”  The answer is…NO. If you look at guidelines for submitting manscripts to journals and for submitting abstracts to meetings, they usually state that a submission is acceptable as long as a manuscript with similar data has not been submitted to another journal (or in case of an abstract, to another meeting). Nothing precludes you from submitting this data if it has been communicated previously via a white paper.

How Can White Papers be Positioned to Increase the Credibility of the Data Presented

There are a number of strategies which can be used to increase the potential credibility of a white paper. In line with discussion above, utilizing authors who are thought leaders in their field is an excellent first step. Leveraging the author’s credibility, especially those with multiple relevant publications, increases the likelihood that the white paper will be acceptable with your target audiences.

A second strategy is to leverage data which has been presented as an oral or poster presentation at a medical meeting and noting this on the cover/front page of the white paper itself. The acceptance and presentation of an abstract at a major medical meeting is typically the result of some type of peer review process. The more prominent the meeting, the more credibility the white paper will have.

Another strategy to increase the credibility of a white paper is to format it in a manner which more reflects a journal reprint than a marketing piece (see above discussion). An example of a white paper this blog’s author has written which uses this formatting approach can be found here.

It is also important to approach the content of a white paper in a manner similiar to what would be used to develop and submit a manuscript for publication. Presenting the data in a style and sequence which many healthcare professionals are familiar with, based on how information is typically presented in journal publications, can improve the white paper’s acceptance. This includes:

  1. Title
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Materials and methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Disclosures
  8. References

Insuring that the white paper is well referenced and has a robust discussion section with the appropriate disclaimers are absolutely essential.

Finally, while the above presumes the reporting of clinical study data in a white paper, the flexibility afforded by white papers makes them ideal for additional types of content including case presentations, clinical patient series, economic modeling-based information, and the reporting of pre-clinical data.

Do you have any additonal ideas of how white papers can be leveraged to increase the acceptance of novel medical technologies?

Check out our White Papers

Medical Technology Insights is an ongoing series of white papers developed by The Atticus Group addressing key topics of interest to companies developing and commercializing novel medical technologies.

Volume 1, Number 1 – October 2016

Avoiding a False Start: Marketing Tips for the Successful Commercialization of Novel Medical Devices

A failed product launch can be disastrous, both financially and to the reputation of the brand. The development and timely execution of a comprehensive strategic launch plan is required for the successful commercialization of new medical technologies. In this paper we review four areas where advanced planning by marketing individuals can assist with a successful product launch.

Click here to download

Volume 1, Number 2 – January 2017

Predicting the Future: Forecasting Initial Product Demand and Sales Revenue for Novel Medical Device Technologies

Sales forecasting for new medical technologies is both an art and a science. This paper reviews the benefits of developing a spreadsheet-based forecasting model and how various market factors and company-related parameters can influence forecasting for sales revenue and initial product build.

Click here to download