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AR and VR for pharma – just the right time to start into the future

Now, pharma is greeted with a big challenge of shifting to more efficient ways of HCPs’ engagement with the recent explosion of VR and AR technologies. Imagine presenting your clinical data all at once just using any suitable device instead of manually sorting out and laying huge rows of useless documentation on the table. As a result, the wide range of up to date scientific resources and data might be difficult to accelerate on a whole new perspective without making it  visual, hands-free and portable whenever and wherever it most in-demand.. “The pattern of activity in a brain region involved in spatial learning in the virtual world is completely different than when it processes activity in the real world,” said Mayank Mehta, a UCLA professor of physics, neurology and neurobiology in the UCLA College and the study’s senior author. Let’s face the new reality of building strong customers’ engagement as the conservative means no longer work.

Let’s briefly plunge into AR and VR in pharma 

How did life sciences start its virtual adoption? Now, wearable devises hardly make any confusion, but in early’90s VR applications and visualizing complex medical data, particularly during surgery and for surgery planning, were almost unrealistic prospects. The term “Virtual reality” was first invented in 1986 by Jaron Lanier, and was meant to be a set of computer, interactive 3D visualization, and specific data gloves with the built-in one or few position trackers. But since 2012 the development went further with a huge explosion of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Gear VR and Google Cardboard. Afterwards, those new solutions have raised much more interest and engagement with new brands and products through medical conventions, conferences or live events. Denise Strauss, former VP of cardiovascular marketing at Boehringer, now VP, head of marketing at Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, notes: “For sales reps, rather than walking into a physician’s office with print material, the Google Cardboard VR experience immediately catches their attention”.

Erin Fitzgerald, VP, marketing, AccentHealth, says: “In fact, data show 96% of physicians agree that VR engagement can be more valuable than websites and other clinical tools used for patient education. As healthcare marketers concentrate on delivering immersive, individualized patient experiences, we expect that VR will take hold at the point of care”. Consequently, it might educate patients as well as clinicians. For example, in ophthalmology, using AR medical app EyeDecide, medical specialists can show their patient, suffering from specific disease, simulation of the vision. Different apps were developed for treating diseases and phobias such as flying, small spaces, crowds, public speaking, bugs and driving, as well as for treatment of depressions and anxieties, stroke rehabilitation, diagnostics and imaging visualizations.

We are already learning by seeing:

VR technologies create complete isolation from the real world. Along with integrated hardware, software, graphics, audios and 3D objects VR is used for visualizing physiological and chemical processes. Not to mention that VR technologies are cost-effective in terms of presenting trainings and education materials to healthcare professionals. In fact, more than 50 % of medical specialists are willing to learn using technologies instead of the old mass of videos and paperwork. These features engage physicians in a complete patient-centric approach. 

4 production spectrums are offered by Virtual Reality:

  • Theater mode: 360-world videos’ combination of content and images presented on a simulated theater screen can certainly drive deeper engagement with your brand among its potential audience. For physicians, if it’s for education purposes, VR solutions can help to get an inside view of patients’ inner processes and conditions normally hidden from view. For example, how it feels to “experience” Parkinson disease or migraine, what symptoms may occur or to view the whole migraine aura.
  • 360-degree Video – the most widely used VR tool. Despite not being able to change user’s position while watching, it remains a major provider of virtual experience. With the help of VR equipment, patients may observe how the prescribed drugs and medicines work in 3D just in front of their eyes. One more example is  LOROS hospice in Leicester,  which created a VR film of a walk in a park to provide respite to terminally-ill patients.
  • Simulated 3D Environments: designing, implementing and integrating 3D objects into VR world with a special software such as Cinema 4D or Maya which allows users to determine their own position. For example, audience can interact with your drugs at the molecular level and integrate the data in a 3D world.
  • Gesture-based Interactivity has its own peculiarity – ability to recognize users’ gestures while interacting with VR objects.

Yet VR and AR are significantly different in their nature:

While VR devices are aimed to completely detach a person from reality, augmented reality (AR) is a consequent response towards delivering information directly into users’ eyesight without losing touch with the real world. This is easy to conceive after the explosion of well-known Pokémon Go which is a straight example of how AR works.  With AR you stay in a current physical world with added virtual elements. Hence, it might bring better understanding in terms of users’ real world experiences. For pharma and healthcare marketers it can become an even more effective tool for HCPs engagement. For instance, for those physicians who may not be able to participate in webinars, live events or lectures, AR offers greater alternative while saving time and efforts. Brent Turner, senior VP, solutions, at Crame, says: “Yet, it is AR that will have the bigger impact on our businesses. By its very nature — opening you to an augmented view of your own reality vs. closing you into an isolated virtual reality — AR will transform how we interact with the world around us”. AR is also expected to be a market at least 3 times larger, than VR.

Augmented Reality in mobile healthcare marketing:

One of the leading strategies for pharma and healthcare marketers is to intensify implementing AR technologies into smartphones. There’s no chance to ignore mobile devices to be the relatively fresh channel to appeal physicians. Actually, it’s time to shift a focus a little bit from website engagement to mobile phones apps.

The AR tech competition among Apple and Google is on its way. Over the last few years, the strong engagement with pharmaceutical and healthcare marketers has become more evident as both companies are struggling to support customers’ needs in various areas, to understand deeper their preferences relative to a product and deliver more value which will ultimately result in better outcomes. In such case, AR technologies are exactly the tools which can help to realize complex medical issues and benefit both patients and physicians. For example, with VimedixAR, medical students would be able to examine 3D anatomy as vimedixAR allows them to move and interact with the hospital training environment, augmented with holograms.

  • Apple is aiming to include dual-lens cameras on both the front and back with automatic generation function for any users’ uploaded photos into AR images. It will definitely increase and strengthen any kind of engagement, no matter whether it’s for the purpose of exploring medical conditions or delivering new drug innovation data to clinicians.
  • Google, on the other hand, is on its developing phase of “Lens” technology. Those Lens will be implemented into smartphones cameras and are targeted to deliver relevant content based on users’ search experience. How can it actually benefit pharma marketers? Just imagine how easy it might become with AR technologies to find the ways of enhancing your multichannel content strategy. So, there should be no excuses not to step into AR challenge and explore its fullest potential. Dave Gulezian, president and CEO of Viscira, says: “Multiple industry reports have predicted that within 10 years AR and VR could produce revenue in the tens of billions of dollars as the potential application of AR and VR goes far beyond gaming and entertainment. There are many different uses for the technology within healthcare, and we are just scratching the surface of its potential”.

Still not ready for the future transformation with VR&AR?

Now that VR/AR has become less of a risk venture and more of a valued offering to the audience, pharma is almost expected to join. Interested in how to make your projects superiorly excellent and practically succeed while creating your multichannel strategy? Subscribe to our news and find more information on this topic or contact our team of experts. We will eagerly support you on any specific question.