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Transforming the Patient Experience with Immersive Technologies

By Jim Weinrebe, Health Practice Leader, MSL North America

The integration of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) with Big Data, increasingly, has the potential to reshape the customer brand experience. Core to this promise are quantum leaps in customer centricity, but where this trend evolves from promise to practice can vary.

Immersive Tech is becoming a crucial part of the digital health revolution

In healthcare, where electronic medical records, wearables, in-dwelling devices, social channels and clinical research databases constitute a “Holy Grail” of Big Data, AR and VR already impact medical practice and the patient journey in several ways, some of which are listed below:

  • Surgeons remotely navigate peers through complex operations and layer direct visualization atop incisionless procedures.
  • Oncologists delivering a cancer diagnosis bring overwhelmed patients “inside” to visualize the molecular activity and proposed eradication of their tumor.
  • Cardiologists help anxious parents visualize the mechanism and planned repair of their child’s heart defect.
  • Chatbots enable on-demand 1:1 patient engagement.
  • Exposure-based treatments conducted in the safety of a room enable doctors to help patients with mental and behavioral health problems (PTSD, Schizophrenia, Anxiety and Phobias, OCD, Developmental disorders, etc.)

Traditional methods of diagnosis, healing and patient care are increasingly being enhanced with and replaced by AR, VR and AI-enabled healthcare solutions.

The PR challenges for immersive tech and healthcare are many. But so are the possibilities

For the PR representative of a regulated manufacturer who wants to influence patient behavior and improve reputation, the roadblocks can seem never-ending – regulatory issues stymie patient engagement in social channels; privacy concerns restrict uses of Big Data; chatbots are out because even anonymized adverse events must be reported. These challenges notwithstanding, applying the imperative of customer centricity to patients, VR and AR can create tantalizing opportunities:

  • We can transform disease awareness with immersive events that create breakthrough empathy for stigmatized or misunderstood conditions, especially brain disorders.
  • We can shape markets for preventive therapies by enabling individuals to viscerally grasp risk status in ways that traditional education messages may ring hollow. Pre-osteoporosis bone density and pre-diabetes, for instance, are just two possibilities.

Digital health innovators and regulated product marketers set the pace in applying VR, AR and MR to the patient-physician relationship. As hardware costs and user simplicity become reliably scalable, PR practitioners can broaden the impact of these technologies, helping companies realize that elusive goal of being truly patient-centric.

This article is a part of “PR 2020 The Dawn of the Augmented Influence” published by MSL’s People’s Insights team that covers the latest trends in engagement on both the consumer and corporate side.

Jim is a leader of the biopharmaceuticals and medical technology portfolio sectors where he applies 25 years of health communications experience to practice planning, growth and service development, while supporting clients with corporate and product programs across the life cycle. He is also a senior practice resource for crisis and issues management and regulatory compliance with health communications. He has been an industry speaker on clinical trial recruitment, crisis management and social media issues and opportunities faced by regulated healthcare companies.

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For more information contact Pascal Beucler, SVP & Chief Strategy Officer, Global, MSL and Melanie Joe, Consultant – Research & Insights, MSL