Breaking Down the Content Silos of Medical Information

Meet Molly.

Molly is a medical writer for a large pharmaceutical company. She is educated, well paid, and is responsible for a number of medical content related activities. Molly really likes her job. Her largest motivation is having a hand in medical documentation that ranges from clinical information all the way to published articles. However, Molly’s greatest challenge is maintaining content consistency and compliance. With the massive amount of medical information available, this quickly becomes a tedious task. Further, Molly fully understands the dire consequences if her content is wrong. Particularly with respect to standard responses where errors or omissions can result in a poor healthcare professional experience, regulatory fines, and even compromise patient safety.

Molly has noticed a pattern: although she authors content relating to medical information, there is also a lot of input from other areas. She must collect information from the drug discovery phase, incorporate unexpected events from the field, and make all this available in a variety of medical information outputs, such as medical response letters and prescribing information. Yet, she constantly has issues getting the right information from the right places! Through emails and endless searches, Molly eventually finds the information she needs, but only after spending many hours sifting through various document versions, dismissing out of date information and rewriting information that is missing or she simply can’t find. Inevitably, she thinks, “there’s gotta be a better way”.


The Content Silo Trap

What Molly is experiencing is the classic “content silo trap”. This is when content has been written in one department, or silo, but never makes it out to other departments. There is no visibility into these silos so people in R&D are unable to see what changes in content have been made in the Medical or Commercial processes. In the Pharmaceutical industry, where regulatory fines are brutal and patient safety is at risk, there is no margin for error.

Additionally, the content silo trap is costly to the company in two ways. First, think about all the “Mollys” in a large Pharma. Molly takes pride in her work so she goes the extra mile to make sure her content is compliant and accurate. But when previously written content isn’t readily available, she wastes hours searching for, rewriting, and reformatting content that already exists. An IDC report found that on average, knowledge workers like Molly waste 20 hours per week on non-productive content related activities. With Molly’s $80,000 salary, that is almost $40,000 lost to the company in unproductive activities.

Second, the content silo trap hurts the company’s content. When content is not readily available or passed between departments in editable Word documents there is literally no way of knowing which content is accurate and up to date. The ubiquitous “copy & paste” function means that content invariably becomes inconsistent with highly expensive and time consuming review and approval processes being the only way to ensure content accuracy and consistency.


The Better Way

Remember when Molly thought, “There’s gotta be a better way”? Well there is!

The key to breaking down the content silo trap is to strategically and intelligently manage your content. This means understanding reuse. Although conceptually simple, this can demand some initial investment. Here are the steps to achieving a better way:


Undergo a Content Audit

By definition, a Content Audit is, “the process and result of conducting a quantitative study of a content inventory” (Talia Eisen, the Language of Content Strategy). This means that all the content from each function in scope is reviewed and analyzed. The purpose is to see where content can be reused instead of rewritten. You can quickly discover where messaging has drifted, where content is wrong or out of date, and where the opportunities for reuse can flourish. Understanding the current state via this audit process is essential to the following steps.

Develop a Content Strategy

Once the content audit has revealed reuse opportunities, it is time to make a plan to execute. A content strategy is simply a sustainable and repeatable plan to decide how content will be created and reused. It consists of developing content reuse strategies, organizing content in a taxonomy, enabling delivery to multiple channels and audiences, and establishing a comprehensive feedback loop from content consumers. To learn more about this, check out Part 1 in our Content Strategy Blog Series.

The reason developing a strategy is so important is because there are a lot of risks to executing without a plan. Just like building a house without plans, writing content without a strategy exposes the company to the risk of a sub-optimal outcome. To learn more about why content strategy is so important, check out Part 2 in our Content Strategy Blog Series.

Once you understand the reuse opportunities and how they can be achieved, it is time to leverage a component authoring platform to execute on your new content strategy.

Bring in the Components

Components are self-contained chunks of content that can be as big as several paragraphs or as small as a single word. Components are created once and can then be reused across any number of documents or outputs. If you ever need to reuse content you simply add a component to your new document. No need to copy and paste, creating multiple copies of the same information.

Furthermore, when components are stored in a centralized, relational database, such as a component authoring platform, they can be easily found and accessed for reuse across multiple departments. This point is pivotal to avoid the content silo trap.

To learn more about component authoring, check out our white paper, Why Components: A Modern Approach to the World’s Content Problem.


The Benefits

Molly has done an excellent job leading the transformation for her company’s new content creation process. From the content audit, Molly discovered that her company could reuse 86% of their content! Executing on her content strategy with a component authoring platform, Molly’s company is seeing a huge return on their investment!

Reusing content across the entire company has:

  • Increased productivity
  • Brought products to market faster
  • Decreased the work load and cut the time to author, review, localize and publish content
  • Slashed translation costs
  • Synchronized content across departments, resulting in consistent message and fewer content errors

Most importantly, version control is no longer an issue because the system uses a centralized database that supports the entire company for collaborative authoring, review, and delivery.



Molly is now a hero in her company. She recognized a problem in the company’s content creation process and instead of ignoring it, she investigated options for a solution. Molly landed on the best solution available: one that encourages success through reuse. The content silo trap has been avoided and when Molly updates content, she can be sure that the information is flowing across departments.