Applications of AR and VR in the Pharma Industry
The augmented and virtual reality industries are growing exponentially, influencing other business sectors, educational spheres, and personal-use products. Quite interestingly, the pharma industry has been quick to jump on the bandwagon, using virtual reality to its advantage.
In 2018, the augmented global reality in the healthcare industry was at $609 million, and the figure is forecasted to rise up to $4.23 billion by 2026.
But how exactly is the pharma industry using AR and VR? What is the scope of these technologies in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medtech industries?
We discuss all these questions below.
Overview of AR and VR in the Pharma Industry
The pharma industry can benefit significantly through augmented and virtual reality in different areas, such as medical training and simulations, marketing, sales support, and patient engagement.
AR/VR enables companies to tell a story about the product and its capabilities. Plus, the technology can be used to demonstrate how a drug works. AR/ VR allows pharmaceutical companies to show 3D visuals of molecules in action to doctors and other healthcare individuals.
More importantly, virtual reality can be used to create virtual patients, so physicians can see how the drug works in a patient.
For instance, Dr. Reddy Laboratories launched a mobile app based on augmented reality that showed the unique features and working mechanism of their cough syrup – Bro-ZeDex – as compared to other companies’ similar products.
AR/VR is also great with marketing. Pharmaceutical companies can create AR/VR videos that take customers inside the brain of people suffering from diseases, helping them understand what these individuals go through every day.
AR and VR will make it possible for healthcare providers and individual patients to interact directly with each other. The technology allows pharmaceutical companies to enhance traditional training methods or improve upon existing education programs using digital technologies.
Another notable advantage of augmented and virtual reality is the provision of safe platforms for drug administration. Owing to virtual technology, medical professionals and patients can simulate taking medications without actually administering drugs into their bodies.
Let’s explore some applications of AR and VR in the pharmaceutical industry.
Improvement in HCP Engagement
In the pharma industry, HCP engagement refers to the process of pharma companies interacting with healthcare professionals (HCPs) in order to seek their support for the product or approval of its use.
The HCP can be a physician, pharmacist, nurse, or allied health professional who is involved in recommending the use of a specific drug for patients.
It requires good relationships between pharma companies and HCPs- usually built through field teams, symposia, and conferences- as well as strong communication channels that enable these interactions to take place effectively and efficiently.
Great engagement is about creating a level of value that is so compelling that the HCP feels confidence in the information shared, will consider acting on it, and is open to future interactions with the life science company.
In an interview with Eric Gubera, the executive vice president of the Life Science Practice at ARSENAL ADVISORS, William Garner, the chief creative officer at Tipping Point Media, explained how augmented reality could help pharma executives in HCP engagement.
He said. ‘’There are two ways of going about it …there’s the in-person aspect of it, and then there’s the virtual aspect where all these tools are relevant …from virtual reality to augmented reality.’’
He further explained how augmented reality allows pharma reps to showcase information, concepts, and science to healthcare providers without even downloading an app or purchasing special headsets.
He went on to say, ‘’And that’s what’s amazing about these new tools, is we can build anything. You know, it’s a world in and of itself that can be created.
And there’s the real true benefit is the dissemination of it. We have the ability to not only do it in virtual reality, we can do it on mobile devices, but iPads, iPhones, Android, and also do it on desktops. And what’s great is it’s the multi-user experience to where you could have this as a virtual booth, where you can invite multiple people in.’’
His company, Tipping Point Media, specializes in this, and Garner explained how companies could use ‘’TippingPoint Media’s virtual brand experience and create a virtual space designed to showcase your company’s products and services in a three hundred and sixty-degree marketing or training experience. We create life-size, and it gives users the sensation of traveling to new, sometimes impossible locations.’’
A Well-Rounded Brand Experience
Pharma reps can use interactive elements to show healthcare providers the mechanism of action of the drugs, they have a better chance at explaining their product’s efficacy.
At the end of the day, it’s not merely an augmented reality visual or a head floating in mid-air but also other resources, such as clinical trials, PDFs, and much more. Garner shed light on this by saying, ‘’Brand experience can also host any number of materials, including PDF videos and data from studies and clinical trials.
TPMs virtual brand experience is accessible from an iPhone, iPad, Android device desktop browser for Oculus Quest. A fully customized brand experience is literally at your fingertips if you’re interested in seeing the TPM virtual brand experience for yourself.’’
In fact, they can use augmented reality to answer a doctor’s questions with ease. Garner explained this in the interview, ‘’And we also have simulations of sales calls where this doctor can appear in your room, and the doctor’s asking you questions. And with artificial intelligence we have built-in, it’s all voice-activated. So you have real engagements with this avatar.’’
The best part about this technology is that it does not need additional resources. If a doctor has a phone or tablet in their room, they’re good to go.
Garner highlighted this, ‘’And this is just on his iPhone. This is no special technology. And all he has to do is click a link, and he’s right there. And this virtual entity is right there in his space. And you’ll see in a moment he walks up into the colon, and he can do an analysis, and he can check, OK, this is you see this information. This looks like Crohn’s ulcer colitis. And you can make a diagnosis based on that. We’ve even gamify this in a way where you actually become the doctor.’’
Garner seemed to be quite confident about the applications of this technology since he claimed every pharma company would soon have it.
No Platform Limitations
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted certain limitations and shortcomings in the way our workplaces operate. One of them was the discrepancy in softwares used by different people.
One person might be using Microsoft Teams while the other is on Zoom. As many organizations are engaging in virtual meetings with HCP’s, it is easy to highlight that forcing your customer into a specific software environment creates friction and can erode the customer experience.
However, AR and VR tools like Tipping Point are aimed at bridging this gap.
Garner explained, ‘’ Every doctor has got a phone on them… they’re either downloading apps from the Apple App Store, or they’re downloading it from Google Play. All of these tools exist there. In fact, if you want to go demo one of ours, you could just do a Google search for TippingPoint in the App Store. And we have four examples in there that you can download. Really, that’s the only thing preventing it.’’
This technology has profound potential to enable life science brands to drive awareness, education, and engagement with the HCP and patients they serve. AR and VR offer opportunities to bring others into the experience, be it the science, a procedure, and more. In fact, for life science brands looking for competitive advantage, it is clear that investing in AR/VR is an opportunity to stand out in most therapeutic areas.
About the Author
Eric Gubera is the Executive Vice President – Life Sciences at ARSENAL ADVISORS. His LinkedIn profile can be found at https://www.linkedin.com/in/egubes/