Digital Technology Enhances Pharma Behind the Scenes
By Murray Izenwasser
VP Consulting | Health Care and Life Sciences Lead
OZ | Digital Consulting Wizards
Digital technologies like augmented reality (AR) and intelligent voice assistants are changing how doctors and patients experience medicine. Doctors can peek beneath the skin to closely examine bone breaks, organ disease and muscle problems. On the battlefield, the military can use an AR system to get immediate remote medical advice. At home, patients can ask Alexa whether or not a headache might be a migraine or if an antibiotic might have a certain side effect.
And behind the scenes, digital technology is transforming pharma in ways that are possibly less flashy but equally important.
As patients become more and more accustomed to seeking advice and research online and via apps and curating their own health data through wearables, pharma companies have endeavored to maintain control over how information about their products is disseminated. AR, virtual reality (VR) and other digital technologies are picking up steam among pharma marketers because they provide a striking way to show rather than tell. As Seth Perlman, chief digital officer of greyhealth group, which specializes in healthcare communications, told BioPharma Dive last year: “If you show a patient with rheumatoid arthritis what it’s going to be like in 10 years to move a glass of water from one surface to another and not spill it … if you can show them that being non-compliant or non-adherent is really going to impact their quality of life, you have a great chance of keeping them on therapy longer—and that’s a direct ROI for a pharma company because longer on drug, longer on therapy, obviously results in increased sales.”
Overall, AR and VR in the healthcare market are booming: The compounded annual growth rate between 2018 and 2023 is forecasted to be 30.2%.
And evidence of this will soon be popping up in offices and clinics around the country. Detailing in pharma refers to when a sales rep visits a doctor’s office to share details on his or her company’s products. While the past couple of decades ushered in the era of sales reps having in-depth conversations with doctors over PowerPoint presentations, electronic brochures and infographics on tablets, in recent years reps have also been spending less and less time in detailing sessions with doctors. In the near future sales reps will be armed with AR glasses and VR-enabled apps. This technology will allow pharma salespeople to show doctors vivid depictions of the body affected by disease—imagine a physician looking through glasses to examine an infection-mottled 3D virtual organ up close—and how their company’s products might help. In instances where the rep is allowed only a brief period of time, such presentations can be done quite quickly.
OZ has recently launched AR-Detailing that goes even further. AR-Detailing will enable biopharma sales representatives to educate physicians with a more immersive experience during their office meeting—and long after they leave. The application consists of AR glasses that allow for full examination of a wide variety of VR organs, including the progression of certain diseases and the indicated treatments. Reps can leave these glasses with the doctor for ongoing interaction. AR-Detailing also comes with an app, so that the doctor can show patients precisely how their diagnosed condition will be treated and why a particular drug was chosen for its benefits to the organ. In just a few minutes—time that is precious to any modern overbooked doctor—this type of visual explanation will go far beyond any previous education techniques.
In addition, AR-Detailing collects data on how the physician uses the app and updates according to the physician’s learning style and previous interactions. It absolutely transforms the experience for the physicians and for the patients.
Other big technology news for the pharma industry: the fact that Alexa is now HIPAA-compliant is very exciting. HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which maintains stringent requirements on patient data use. Up until now, this has meant that health-related technology apps that allow people to interact with digital voice assistants could not be created if they relied on personal health-related details.
This will be a game changer for the industry—and for OZ. We’re looking forward to sharing some of the proofs of concept we’ve been developing with our healthcare and life sciences/pharmaceuticals clients. Imagine a world where patients can ask a device in their living rooms personal health questions and get immediate answers about their medications. Soon we’ll be seeing Alexa providing diabetes patients with blood glucose readings, notifying health care providers about their patients’ in-home test results—or vice versa—and connecting parents to their child’s care team if they have questions about a medication’s side effects.
For pharmaceutical companies, doctors and patients, these digital tech developments make every step of the way in healthcare transparent—from holding a virtual organ in your hands as you figure out the best course of treatment to knowing down to the minute when your prescription is at the counter.