Using component-based structured content authoring and having a robust reuse strategy is the only way to produce pharma content at scale. It’s how you produce accurate content efficiently across the enterprise. It’s how you deliver the right content to the right place at the right time, such as when you compile a dossier or update the company core data sheet. 

Content reuse is one of the main drivers of the transformation to structured content in pharma and it requires us to change how we manage content.

Content Ownership Is Part of Your Content Reuse Strategy

One of the key components of a content reuse strategy is to determine who owns the reused content. The content owner is responsible for ensuring that the content is accurate, current, and written according to standards.

The content owner is often not the person creating the content directly. They may be a product owner, a lead author, or a person with deep expertise in a particular area. This person has the final authority over the accuracy, quality, and relevance of the reused content. 

Authors Own the Knowledge, Not the Content

Scientific and medical writers provide tremendous value with their scientific or medical expertise and their ability to communicate that knowledge. The content they produce is highly valuable and integral to the business. Their writing has a direct impact on how quickly the regulator approves the application. Ultimately, the author’s knowledge leads to making medicine available to the people who need it.

A medical writer’s ability to copy/paste, type, or format a Word document is not what makes them crucial to the business. The document may be a tangible artifact of their expertise and a “thing” they produce in the course of their day. But the document itself is not as valuable as the knowledge it conveys.

Content Reuse Prevents Content Drift

Without content reuse, authors often copy and paste content from one document to another. They then tweak the pasted content as much or as little as they want. Most writers believe that this revision makes the content more fit for purpose. 

Unfortunately, this “freedom to tweak” leads to content drift. The content in the downstream document no longer matches the content in the upstream document.  The content drifts further and further apart with each iteration. When that information needs to be revised, the updates must be made individually to each instance.

Making these updates is difficult and fraught with risk. It takes an enormous amount of time to find the content everywhere it appears across the entire dossier and throughout the enterprise. The risk that some instances of the information are never found and thus never updated can lead to queries and even inspections by regulatory reviewers.

Content reuse solves the problem. Content reuse ensures that there are no mixed messages when one document needs to convey the same information as another document.

With content reuse, there is no copy and paste. You write and store the content one time. Then, you use that one version everywhere you need it. That version is reused by linking to it from different documents in different ways, depending on your authoring environment.

We’re All in It Together

Most writers feel some anxiety when they first start thinking about content reuse. Writers often secretly (or not-so-secretly) worry that the reusable content won’t be as good as whatever they would have written de novo. And medical writers are no exception. They worry that writing for reuse will force them into creating such generic content that it no longer means anything. The constraints inherent in writing to content standards often feel claustrophobic at first.

Even though we all know that content created at work, for work, is owned by the enterprise and not the individual, it can be hard to get used to using someone else’s content. Somehow, it’s always easier to think about other people using “your” content than it is to consider using “theirs.”

As the pharma business moves inexorably toward deconstructing monolithic documents into reusable components, everyone in the end-to-end content lifecycle is affected. When content is available for reuse beyond the author who originally created it, content ownership becomes even more important.

There are compelling business reasons – such as reducing risk, time, and cost — to reuse content instead of having every author tweak the words every time they copy the information. Establishing ownership over that reusable content is an essential part of your content reuse management and governance strategy.

The truth is, in a component-based, structured content ecosystem, there is no “yours” and “theirs.” There is only “ours.”

Content Rules is the only end-to-end service provider with experience in pharmaceutical content.  We have helped numerous companies transform from document-based publishing to component-based, structured content management. We developed our Five Dimensions of Content Standardization Framework™ to help companies standardize content in all five dimensions to ensure that content is FAIR: findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. We can help you solve your complex content challenges. Contact us to see how we can help you!

Regina Lynn Preciado