August 3, 2020
XR Anwendungen
XR Applications
Gabriella Chihan Stanley

Virtual and Augmented reality for pharma training and marketing

This article will provide you with essential information about the possibilities of extended realities, or XR (the umbrella term that refers to virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technologies as a whole), in the context of pharma and health tech today and the future. It will also give you some examples of how pharma companies use immersive technologies, all aimed at giving you the tools you need to create a purposeful, effective, and powerful XR project.

You arrive at the venue, get your name badge, and you’re ready to start the conference day. After an enlightening first session about the latest health tech trends and some stimulating conversations with fellow industry professionals, you decide to use your break time to visit the exhibition area. As you walk around through the booths, you notice that many of them showcase virtual reality (VR) experiences or augmented reality (AR) features in their demonstrations. You realize that the use of these technologies in the pharmaceutical sector has become commonplace. After trying its effects for yourself (and loved it), you decide it’s time to bring your immersive tool into existence. But where to start?

Implementing health tech innovation in the pharmaceutical sector

The pharmaceutical industry operates within one of the most complex, strictest, and regulated frameworks of any industry. These highly sensitive and time-intensive circumstances naturally result in a slow pace of innovation, especially when comparing them to other technology-focused industries. However, the boom of wearable technology, the rising demands of lowering drug costs while maintaining impeccable standards, and the
general need to find new cost-effective solutions for improving efficiency are urging the pharma market to seek solutions within emerging technologies such as XR.

The global market for AR and VR in healthcare is expected to generate around €4,570 million by 2025.

The potential of XR tech in pharma

According to a recent report by Zion Market Research, the global healthcare augmented and virtual reality market was valued at approximately EUR 780 million (USD 850 million) in 2018. It's expected to generate around EUR 4.570 million (USD 5.115 million) by 2025, at a CAGR of around 29.2% between 2019 and 2025. Moreover, Europe ranked amongst the top major markets in 2018 for the global healthcare AR and VR market due to the extensive research and development initiatives, many opportunities for government funding, and high investment for XR technologies.

Big players use XR

In what specific areas is XR currently being used in the context of pharma? Who are some of the big players who are using XR? Here are some concrete examples:

  • Research: these versatile technologies offer a unique opportunity to analyze, understand, and ask questions about the discovery and development of drugs, treatments, and therapies.
  • Pharmaceutical marketing: XR offers novel strategies by creating tools that spark curiosity and encourage participation. It does so by enhancing customer engagement, increasing brand differentiation, and achieving more profound responses from patients and HCPs.
  • Learning and development: XR presents an excellent way of visualizing complex information while offering a distraction-free environment and endless opportunities for repetition. These attributes open up a myriad of opportunities in learning and development, education, and e-detailing.

Many global big players in the industry have already started investing in the development of their own XR experiences for a myriad of different purposes. Some examples of VR projects include Johnson & Johnson Institute’s global VR training program for surgeons and nurses and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica’s VR 360 video, which explains to veterinarians and farm owners how the PRRS virus affects pigs. When it comes to the use of AR, Pfizer developed a guide that answers patients’ questions about one of their product lines directly at the point of purchase.

First XR experience? Here are four tips on doing it right.

Consumers are quickly learning what they can expect from XR. Experiences should follow that growth of understanding by delivering information as much as meaning while preserving the unique, engaging factor that makes XR unique. Knowing how to use immersive technologies effectively and purposely is crucial to our initiatives' success. Here are some tips to make it happen:

  • Know your audience: What determines the value of an XR experience? Simple. Its ability to answer the question: what information will they need? Answering this question is the ultimate key to a purposeful and unique immersive project. There is no such thing as a universally valid XR experience.
  • Make it scalable: XR is going to change the world, much like the internet did back in the 90s. However, the big dividends of the future will pay to those who decide to invest in these technologies now. The solution? Scalability. Limit your experience to a specific audience. This might be a certain conference, a training tool for a particular manufacturing process, the MOA of one particular drug, etc.. Use the best that XR can offer now but always leave room for upgrading the content in both tech improvements and broader audiences.
  • Make it meaningful: Whether by adding layers to the real world or immersing users to a completely different reality, the most significant power of immersive experiences is its ability to transport us to a different reality. Harness that power by letting unique, meaningful content drive your projects. Never let the tech take the lead. Hardware gets obsolete. Great content lives forever.
  • Make it human: XR - VR in particular - causes people to remember experiences as a place they've been to instead of an experience they tried out. Remember this. Enable users to, whenever possible, have an active role in the story. Get rewards or punishments for their choices and make them influence the outcome of the experience. This involvement is what they will remember. Encourage them to do better, make them feel safe and motivated, and always plan for when something doesn't run smoothly. Having a support person in the real world is always a great initiative.

A thought for your future self

Whether it’s helping physicians and patients understand the invisible emotional effects of diseases, or making more time and cost-effective onboarding processes for labs and facilities, XR can spark the next generation of pharma innovation. XR can enhance our understanding of biotechnologies, offering us new possibilities to provide more efficient, safer, and affordable healthcare solutions.

Remember, the future of immersive tech is owned by those who start their journey today.

Are you interested in starting your first XR project? Our experts at vrisch can advise you on how to create the experience you need to reach your audience effectively and meaningfully. If you’re interested in getting specific advice, we’d be thrilled to hear from you. We will tell you everything you need to know to get your project started. Not sure where to start? No problem. We organize special workshops designed based on you and the needs of your company. Contact us!