Healthcare Marketing: Where Does VR/AR Fit into the Equation?

Alex Marchetti
Oct 10, 2017 · 4 min read

We have seen hundreds of articles outlining VR and AR’s potential to change the way brands market and communicate with their customers, but few have addressed the topic in healthcare. After spending the last week at Digital Pharma East, a conference that brings marketing leaders in the pharmaceutical industry together, I realize there is a need for more conversation around how VR/AR is impacting healthcare marketing and communications.

A big theme that really resonated with me at the conference is that, we as marketers should use caution when inserting different types of technology into our communication strategy, and really take the time to step back and ask ourselves how is this technology providing value to the customer?

I think this question becomes especially important when we think about introducing newer, buzz worthy technologies, like VR/AR into the marketing equation. The idea to incorporate VR/AR should always start with: what problem or insight does VR/AR address and how does it uniquely address the problem? It’s too often that we see brands instead starting with “how can we incorporate VR/AR into our strategy?”

Now, don’t get me wrong, VR/AR certainly provides new and exciting ways of communicating concepts for pharma marketers. Just imagine having a sales rep use a VR headset to showcase mechanism of action to the doctor or building a VR experience that lets the patient travel inside their own body to learn about their disease. However, in these situations we shouldn’t choose to show mechanism of action in VR just because it’s a cool technology that everyone’s talking about.

Instead, VR/AR should satisfy a specific brand objective.

The best applications of VR/AR, solve communication problems in a way that other technologies have failed to do or cannot do.

Case Study 1: Deeper understanding of patients

To highlight a brand that’s doing it right, consider the work of Regeneron for their retinal disease medication, EYLEA. The “In My Eyes” campaign used VR to solve a communication gap between the physician and patient.

Specifically, patients were having trouble describing their visual impairment and how it impacted their daily life, making it challenging for physicians to treat their condition. Leveraging a Google Cardboard and a smartphone, physicians were able to experience the symptoms of retinal disease through the eyes of their patients.

Not only did this experience solve a crucial business problem for Regeneron by driving more EYLEA prescriptions, but it also improved patient/doctor communication, resulting in better patient outcomes. As an added benefit, Regeneron even created an AR version of their experience so caregivers and family could better understand what their loved ones were going through.

Case Study 2: Bringing data to life

Ferring Pharma, an IVF drug manufacturer gave an equally interesting presentation at Digital Pharma East about their work with Confideo Labs. Their franchise was maturing and they needed to change their product positioning to physicians, so they turned to VR to enable clinicians to explore the complex science behind their products in a visceral and intimate way. IVF is a field where new data is rare, so reps felt that by bringing their existing data to life in a whole new way through VR, it gave them more time in front of their customers and generated new discussions.

The future of VR/AR in healthcare marketing

I hope to see many more applications of VR/AR like the examples above and especially more on the patient education side. With the release of Apples new AR Kit, I hope we will start to see brands leveraging this technology to help facilitate more meaningful dialogue between the patient and physician or empowering patients with more tools to learn about their condition. But whatever the application may be, it should stem from a specific insight, problem or objective that the brand has identified.

A lot of brands use VR/AR to simply be innovative, but we can do better than that! Let’s not use technology for the sake of using technology, but instead use it as a way to better understand and communicate with our customers. At appliedVR we always look at VR/AR through this lens, starting with the problem we are solving for our clients.

VR/AR in and of itself shouldn’t be an objective or strategic goal for brands. Instead, it should be another tool in our toolbox that we use to communicate and market to our customers. So next time you are in a meeting and someone brings up VR/AR, you know what questions to ask.

Get in touch to learn more about how other brands are using VR/AR.