Augmented Reality: The New, New Media - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Augmented Reality: The New, New Media


Pharmaceutical Executive


Real World Use

It is especially important that pharma recognize the various applications of augmented reality. In the wake of the recent economic recession, pharmaceutical companies have started tuning their ears to technological innovations that will potentially cut costs by replacing sales teams. This is a complete misconception and misuse of technology. Hi-tech applications like augmented reality maximize the value of pharma industry representatives by making them work more efficiently and arming them with engaging tools for effective detailing.

Sales reps can gain trust through transparency with AR demonstrations of their product's effects on the human body. For instance, doctors will be able to visualize how and how quickly a drug passes through internal organs by seeing the process projected onto a real person. In addition, an AR demonstration can help doctors explain to their patients how exactly a medical device, like an inhaler or pacemaker, works. Augmented reality can also put lengthy information, such as scientific testing and adverse effects, at a physician's fingertips, and make data available for review on the doctor's time.

One important lesson pharma marketers will need to learn is that augmented reality is not simply interactive by virtue—you have to make it so. This means considering how your target audience already utilizes the technology, and how they can adopt it in a way that enhances their lives. Current applications of augmented reality are location-based, and the healthcare industry is already experimenting with using AR to navigate patients towards hospitals, clinics, and specialists. Pharma companies can leverage augmented reality to create useful tools that benefit patient education and compliance, and answer questions such as: Where can patients refill their prescriptions, and where is the best place for a patient to give herself an insulin shot? Developing AR software that answers these questions will give your brand the edge over competing drugs by adding value.

Current applications of augmented reality are location-based, and the healthcare industry is already experimenting with using AR to navigate patients towards hospitals, clinics, and specialists. Another location-based application of augmented reality is to identify high-risk areas during an epidemic. Pharma can also work with doctors to generate brochures and other educational materials about your drug for their patients, help patients undergoing surgery understand the procedure, and illustrate the consequences of improper use of your drug or device.

Future Forward

Most people find it surprising that augmented reality has been around for decades. But it has been right in front of us all this time. Sportscasters have used it to mark up broadcasts of live games; weathermen use it to make their maps more dynamic. Despite these common uses, augmented reality has stayed under the radar of most major industries. That is, until widespread use of mobile phones and other portable camera-enabled devices generated a renewed interest in AR technology. It's imperative that the pharmaceutical industry not only take notice, but also use augmented reality to change people's relationships with their medications.

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, as part of the federal stimulus package, providing incentives to healthcare providers who adopt electronic medical records (EMR). Augmented reality facilitates the meaningful integration of EMRs into day-to-day operations; with doctors and nurses carrying around camera-equipped mobile devices, they can instantly access the conditions and treatment histories of any patient, and decide who needs immediate care.

In addition, moving X-ray images can help physicians better understand paralyses and injuries to the human body. Doctors can study skeletal elements such as spine curvature, and perform range-of-motion testing. AR technology can even aid in the implementation and testing of medical implants and other internal devices such as pacemakers and hearing devices. It's already clear that AR will play a major role in revolutionizing the healthcare system. Pharma has plenty to benefit from augmented reality as well.

Guy Mastrion is chief global creative officer at Palio and co-founder of Pixels & Pills. He can be reached at


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