eyeforpharma 2018 – VR in the pharmaceutical industry

22nd October 2018 by Alex Teckkam

  Does Virtual Reality have a place in the pharmaceutical industry? At medDigital we certainly think so. And as the AR/VR sponsor at this year’s eyeforpharma Marketing and Customer Innovation conference, we were thrilled to see so many presentations, practical demonstrations and discussions dedicated to discussing this question.   Joerg Schaub (Eli Lily) began the discussion, asking “Virtual reality: buzzword or transformative tool?”. Joerg highlighted the fact that human desire for virtual reality is not a new concept. After all, 3D videos were first released in 1961 and the first virtual reality head gear appeared in 1994. Whilst the pharmaceutical industry is not driving the use of this technology, Joerg suggested it should be a potential channel for congresses, face-to-face events and the sales force, stressing that we need to be with our customers when they are using it. He presented a case study of how Lily have been using virtual reality in Dermatology to show HCPs different modes of action under the skin and to help improve their diagnosis of patients. He felt that VR was not a buzzword or a transformative tool but a channel with tangible applications.   Following on from Joerg’s presentation, our very own founder Felix Jackson hosted a round table discussion answering, “Is AI, AR, VR or Machine Learning being applied in pharma?”. This discussion resulted in several potential applications being highlighted for use including:  
  • Education and information showcasing key concepts such as biological mechanisms and mode of action
  • To enhance the treatment of patients
  • To provide disease awareness and educate patients about a condition and potential ways to prevent a condition or progression of a disease
  • To assess a patient’s response to a treatment
  • Gamification
  There is clearly potential to use these technologies, with many of the above applications falling under the bracket of education. But when considering using VR in education we have to ask ourselves, how does it compare with other training methods? Does it actually help to improve retention of the information?   According to Abby Fleming (Janssen), the answer is yes. VR powered training allows HCPs to learn by doing, a training method shown to result in an average of 75% learning retention rate, far outweighing audio-visual (20%), reading (10%) and lectures (5%).   Janssen introduced their work using virtual reality nurse training in multiple myeloma to improve patient outcomes and minimise delay to treatment. The room was in awe as the Janssen team demonstrated their VR chemotherapy suite with data, prescriptions, graded symptoms and stats as well as in-built sound to hear the difference in patients’ symptoms. Janssen concluded that VR had vastly improved the confidence of the nurses and tackled their apprehension about using the technology.   As the conference came to an end, it was important to revisit the key question: Is VR still a buzzword or does it have real applications in our industry?   Case studies and discussion have shown us there can be powerful application of VR in this space particularly around education, awareness and training but as with all digital activities the channel should be chosen when it meets a need not because it’s a hot trend! Remember, while you may have great content, it must reach your customers in the way that they want to receive it in order to encourage an action, a meaningful engagement.   At medDigital we look forward to working with our customers to use VR to enhance learning and improve the patient experience. Attending conferences such as the eyeforpharma summit is key for us to be involved with the most up to date discussions and hear key learnings from industry experts. We now look to the 17th annual eyeforpharma Barcelona, held on 12th-14th March 2019. When we asked our Scientific Director Jess Thilaganathan for her thoughts on the upcoming conference she said:   ‘In Barcelona next year we’re really looking forward to seeing the progress made in the next six months and how we can contribute to the evolution, with our founder Felix Jackson set to be on stage sharing medDigital’s latest insights.’   We hope to see you all there!    
By Alex Teckkam  
Meta Title: VR in the pharmaceutical industry
Meta Description: Blog post on opportunities of virtual reality in the pharmaceutical industry