With the 19th Annual Meeting of ISMPP having recently taken place (24–26 April 2023; Washington, DC, USA), we have collated our key highlights from the meeting, which was themed ‘Patients First’. Interesting insights on Plain Language Summary of Publication article (PLSP) readers, authors and the evolution of the PLSP format were shared by fellow publication professionals, and Future Science Group (FSG) received continued support and accolades for our PLSPs! Find out more below.
How was FSG recognised this year?
At this year’s ISMPP, FSG was mentioned above and beyond any other publisher at the conference, which highlights the impact that PLSPs have had on the scientific publishing industry. This year, we were awarded the People’s Choice Award, our Future Rare Diseases journal had multiple mentions for using patient authors and our standalone PLSPs were selected as the standard in the Patient Premiers session! We have received recognition for our patient focus, which perfectly aligns us with this year’s ISMPP theme of ‘Patients First’ and would like to thank all involved in publishing our PLSPs for your continued support in the field.
Who reads PLSPs, how and why?
A survey of 79 Plain Language Summary of Publication (PLSP) readers was carried out between November 2021 and February 2023 to gain an understanding of the value that PLSPs have.
The results highlighted that PLSPs are valuable to a diverse audience, the majority being healthcare professionals. Other readers included patients, caregivers, science communication professionals and students; this is reflected in the most common response given when asked why they read PLSPs, ‘To understand more about the topic’, this applies to all individuals regardless of scientific background.
Insights were also shared on the discoverability of PLSPs and whether the PLSP would result in the reader doing additional research. Ways that PLSPs were discovered included personal recommendations, Medline/PubMed searches (databases of life science and biomedical information) and Google searches. In addition, more than half of the readers of PLSPs (61%) went on to read the original article.
Source: Oliver J, Lobban D, Jenkins R, Walker J & Dormer L. Understanding the Value of Standalone Plain Language Summaries of Publications: Updated Findings From an Online Survey of Readers. Presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of ISMPP (29 April – 1 May 2023; Washington, DC, USA).
Who writes PLSPs? Can involving patient and caregiver perspectives improve the reach of PLSPs?
According to the Good Publication Practice (GPP) 2022 and International Committee of Medical Journal Editor (ICMJE) guidelines for secondary publications, PLSPs should involve the lead author and several authors of the original article which the PLSP is based on. A study was carried out between August 2020 and February 2023 to compare the authors of published PLSPs in different Future Science Group (FSG) journals.
The research found that almost all PLSPs (71/72) had at least one author from the original publication and most (66/72) included a lead author from the original paper. Ten PLSPs had an additional patient/caregiver author; metrics were measured on these PLSPs, using a website called Altmetric, to see how often the PLSPs were viewed and downloaded. The results showed that, on average, PLSPs with a patient/caregiver author had a higher Altmetric score and more downloads than ones that did not have a patient/caregiver author.
Thirteen PLSPs included an added perspective section, where the opinion of a patient, caregiver or healthcare professional was given. On average PLSPs with an added patient/caregiver perspective section had a higher Altmetric score and number of downloads than the PLSPs without it. This suggests that PLSPs benefit from incorporating a patient/caregiver author or a perspectives section.
Source: Elliott C, Oliver J, Manning L, Lobban D, Jenkins R & Walker J. Who Are the Authors of Plain Language Summaries of Publications? Presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of ISMPP (29 April – 1 May 2023; Washington, DC, USA).
How have PLSPs evolved and how can we bridge the gap between healthcare providers and patients?
Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, detailed how they’ve evolved their use of plain language summaries (PLSes) since 2018 and stated what their goal for PLSes are in 2023.
Pfizer initially started with the use of abstract PLS (aPLS), a short easy-to-read summary of the article, which they used in congress presentations. Since then they’ve explored different types of formats. Examples include a podcast, standalone PLSPs in partnership with FSG and oral presentations of PLS. They state that these varied formats of PLS can continue to be developed by authors using existing standard operating procedures.
In June 2022 aPLS QR code booklets were used around congresses and online through their social media; The booklets included direct links to aPLS and an overview of what they are, how they are used, who they are for, and why the industry develops them. This resource was further developed when the first Health Literacy wall was set up at the ASH 2022 congress, they included further information on the aPLS including how to read an abstract, common terms used in aPLS/clinical trials and the clinical trial process.
In 2023, Pfizer aims to expand PLS access to both patients and healthcare professionals by developing and using these resources.
Source: Gianares BW, Patel R, Shah S, Ghith J, Garas S, Thomas C, Schuler K, Campbell D, Passador L, LaRue L & Schwarzkopf M. Achieving Health Equity Through Shared Decision-Making: Evolution of Plain Language Summaries (PLS). Presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of ISMPP (29 April – 1 May 2023; Washington, DC, USA).
What elements in plain language summaries help patient understanding?
Research was carried out where interviews were conducted with 15 individuals – this included individuals with and without a healthcare background – to collect feedback on the common elements that were found to be useful in the understanding of PLSes.
Both the content and visual presentation of the PLSes were different, however, a consensus was achieved on what the interviewees found helpful and what they didn’t. Some of the helpful elements that were identified included having information on whether the medication discussed was approved or not, being printable on a single page and including the commercial name of the medication.
Whilst elements that were found to be unhelpful included having multiple columns, including mechanism of action figures, and having oversimplified language; this suggests that simplicity of language seems to be less important than having clear communication accompanied by clear visuals and sectioning.
Source: Subramanian RP, Bessler JB, Fazzone W, Havran L, Mercado E, Ruth A & Stevens C. Plain Language Summaries-How can we improve patient understanding? Presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of ISMPP (29 April – 1 May 2023; Washington, DC, USA).