The metaverse has become a technological buzzword these days. But can the metaverse really provide value in the healthcare and life sciences industry? Indegene’s SVP of Omnichannel Activation, Nancy Phelan, caught up with Josh Chapman, Director of Learning CVRM at AstraZeneca and Ashish Sharma, Executive Director, Data, and Platform: Commercial Effectiveness at Novartis at the Indegene Digital Summit 2022 to discuss how the metaverse has the potential to transform healthcare initiatives.
The way we use the internet is rapidly changing. We are in the process of going from scrolling to the more immersive experience of strolling that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of the screen. This potential for highly engaging experiences online opens the door to possibilities for reshaping the business landscape.
While the implementation and adoption of this new technology is still evolving, metaverse is clearly a potential growth driver for healthcare. According to Nancy Phelan, the metaverse has the potential to bring remarkable value to health care and the life sciences by augmenting current go-to-market strategies. Given that 70% of HCPs are unsure if reps understand their needs1 and an increasing number of HCPs desire a hybrid model, metaverse has the potential to provide a hybrid model by bringing omnichannel strategies together in a richer, more immersive way.
Not only is the metaverse ripe for transforming the current go-to-market models we have, but it is also set to open the doors to all kinds of new opportunities in the life sciences. With the potential for more immersive learning experiences, medical congresses and events could be brought to life and its impact could be extended. Healthcare professionals could engage in immersive learning experiences and the possibility of finding reference studies and information more easily would make it possible to stay up to date on the latest research. Patients also stand to benefit from the introduction of the metaverse. Whether it’s having the option to navigate and connect to expertise that may previously have been unavailable or joining a patient community to share information and get support, more immersive experiences could transform the patient journey and give patients ways to be fully empowered.
One real world example of the metaverse in action was when AstraZeneca began training their field force during Covid. Although they had good results training their field force over video conferencing, Josh Chapman explained that they felt they were still missing two essential components. They needed to replicate an in-person environment to sharpen the trainees’ skills, and people were missing out on feeling like part of a team.
The metaverse allowed them to overcome these two challenges and was a game changer. When they were able to put people in a team building exercise with an avatar, not only did they have a lot of laughs, but people really connected. They were also able to simulate a doctor’s office and train people in real world digital scenarios which led to more in-depth understanding of the sales process and valuable practical experience.
As with all new technologies, however, the question of implementation and adoption is still at the forefront of the conversation. Ashish Sharma offered his advice to keep it simple and stay relevant. With metaverse, he explained, your whole infrastructure needs to be on 5G, and everything needs to be in sync. Keeping it simple, keeping it relevant, and preparing champions are important for building a foundation for success.
No conversation about new technologies is complete without a discussion of the risks and barriers to adoption. Ashish highlighted potential issues around privacy and security, as well as concerns about the need to update infrastructures. Any of these challenges have the potential to slow adoption. And with an immersive technology like the metaverse, there are also important discussions around the viability and adoption of the metaverse for those who are less tech-savvy. Questions still remain for understanding how the metaverse will be adopted. But like all new technologies, the metaverse will have to provide value, and where the metaverse creates a better delivery mechanism, it will likely thrive.
Despite the ongoing questions and challenges the metaverse has incredible potential to revolutionize the way that we do healthcare. For everyone from healthcare professionals to life sciences companies and patients, connecting people in deeply immersive ways is what differentiates it from other technologies. Applying our learnings from experiences with previous technologies, Ashish reminded us to “Keep it simple, start with end consumption behavior, and it will get adopted. Don’t just build something because it’s cool and geeky.”
There is little doubt that implementing a technology that completely changes the way we interact has the potential to be a gamechanger, if of course, those interactions truly transform our experience and bring value to our lives and the lives of those the health care system seeks to improve.