The trajectory of virtual reality in healthcare marketing

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Rather than creating passive (often ignored) ads, leading healthcare marketers are adapting virtual reality (VR) as a powerful tool to more meaningfully connect with providers and patients – offering them fresh, engaging and memorable new experiences.

The Industry
The Virtual Reality industry is poised to reach $80 billion by 2025 – through a combination of hardware sales and content. Hardware breaks down into two main types of VR devices: ‘full feature’ and ‘mobile’.

“Full feature” incorporates high-resolution screens. ‘Mobile VR’ incorporates a smartphone’s screen into a special case, enabling the headset to fit snugly on the user’s head. Google was one of the first companies to combine VR and mobile with Google Cardboard. It allowed users to download an app, plug their phones into a cardboard “VR Headset” and take photos.

Healthcare VR
VR will transform the healthcare landscape. The technology has the power to improve clinical outcomes, deliver innovative new therapies, better train healthcare professionals and reshape the patient experience. For the purpose of focus, we’re concentrating here on how VR can transform the lives of patients.

Here are seven ways virtual reality can achieve this (by preparing, preventing, providing therapy and follow-up):

1. Give consumers a behind-the-scenes look
VR can provide a unique, behind-the-scenes look at new initiatives going on at an organization, facility or service line. For our client Reading Health System, Trajectory developed a VR experience as part of a larger marketing program to introduce Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical & Inpatient Care. As one of the most transformative facilities of its kind in PA and in the nation, we wanted an equally transformational way to introduce this game-changing facility to prospective patient audiences.

2. Improved patient education
One of many examples is educating about what will actually happen in a clinical trial. The clinical research organization Quintiles will use VR for recruitment of patients into clinical trials, taking the prospective patient through the journey of learning about what’s involved in the clinical trial and what will actually happen.

3. Making children feel like they’re home
The hospital experience is particularly tough for kids who miss their parents, best friends and comforting home environment. Now, a Dutch company provides a virtual remedy. Through a smartphone and virtual glasses, VisitU makes live contact possible with a 360° camera at the patient’s home, school or special occasions such as a birthday celebration or a football game. Though hospitalized, young patients can still connect and enjoy their daily lives.

4. Helping to ease phobias
VR is being used in controlled environments to force patients to physically confront that which they fear the most – in order to ease or completely cure phobias. With 4-5% of Americans suffering from a clinically significant phobia, the opportunity is significant. The Virtual Reality Medical Center has been offering VR treatments for specific phobias such as fear of flying, driving, heights, public speaking, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder due to motor vehicle accidents, among others.

5. Speeding recovery after a stroke
For patients surviving a stroke or traumatic brain injury, time is of the essence. The earlier they start rehabilitation, the better the chances for successfully regaining lost functions. MindMotionPro, produced by Swiss Mindmaze allows patients to “practice” how to lift their arms or move their fingers with the help of VR. Although they might not carry out the actual movement, the app enhances attention, motivation and engagement with visual and auditory feedback. The resulting mental effort helps traumatized nervous systems to recover much faster than lying helplessly in bed. Similarly, the use of VR in physical therapy has yielded studies with some very encouraging results, demonstrating a clear link between the effectiveness that the duo might provide.

6. Powering Patients
USC Center for Body Computing, is leading several initiatives to make virtual and mixed reality more patient friendly. The center’s Virtual Care Clinic system features an app that connects patients to medical expertise similar to what they would receive at the doctor’s office. It has helped develop prototypes and create market-ready health management solutions that “allow every patient, athlete, warfighter and veteran to obtain the most contextualized and individualized information and care anywhere, anytime.”

7. Relaxing chronic patients
When you’re in a hospital, time seems to stand still. There’s little to do, except miss your family and friends, and worry about your condition. Brennan Spiegel and his team at the Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles introduced VR worlds to their patients to help them release stress and reduce pain. Through VR, they could escape the four walls of the hospital and visit landscapes in Iceland, participate in the work of an art studio or swim alongside whales in the ocean. Spiegel says that “not only can the hospital experience be improved with medical VR, but the costs of care may also be reduced. By reducing stress and pain, the length of the patient’s stay or the amount of resources utilized can both be decreased.”

Our Take
Virtual Reality is booming. And there’s no indication that its trajectory will slow. There are a few reasons why:

1. It can easily be integrated with consumer’s mobile devices.

2. Beyond same-as-everyone-else passive ads, VR is a powerful tool that can captivate and engage healthcare consumers as they feel like they’re embedded in an experience-based story.

3. Beyond being embedded in a story, VR delivers exceptional tangible “value” to patients and physicians, and competitive advantage to organizations.

Are you considering integrating VR into your programs? We can help. Reach out to Chris Wood to start a conversation.

Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, a brand consulting and marketing agency specializing in creating momentum for customers, brands and businesses across the related categories of health, wellness and beauty.

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