Healthcare and pharmaceuticals are two of the most highly regulated industries when it comes to marketing and the use of consumer data. My mom has worked in pharmaceutical sales for her entire life, and over the years I have learned first hand just how much of a hindrance these regulations can be to a sales and marketing team. While social media and AI have been transforming industries left and right, the healthcare industry is shifting at a much slower rate due to increased regulations and privacy concerns. Obviously, this regulatory increase isn’t without good reason. Drug and healthcare prices are going through the roof and the opioid epidemic seems to only be getting worse. However, with the help of AI, augmented reality, and other digital technologies, several firms are attempting to reduce these consequences and change the landscape for consumers, health care providers, and big pharma.
When people think of augmented reality (AR) in marketing and client services, most examples that come to mind are consumer product firms. For instance, Nike promoted its biggest shoe launch of 2017 by allowing die-hard Nike fans to view the newest Jordans exclusively on its SNKRS app, using AR to replicate what the shoes would look like in the store. Pharmaceutical companies are attempting to utilize the lifelike aspects of AR to make drugs and other treatments more understandable to the consumer.
With chronic diseases on the rise, hospitals and doctor’s offices are being swarmed by previously-diagnosed patients who do not fully understand their treatment. An AR app could allow patients to better visualize their diseases, which levels of symptoms are safe to treat at home versus which need serious medical attention. Many chronic diseases are treated with self-administered injectables. If a patient does not understand how to administer their treatment, AR can assist them in visualizing the location of their injection site. A similar AR application can be used to treat patients who have lost limbs and are learning how to use their prosthetics. Patients would have the ability to view their arm or leg with their future prosthetics overlayed on top, with the goal of leading to a smoother mental transition throughout the rehab process.
The uses of AR in healthcare are not limited to prescribed treatment. Over-the-counter medications can be just as confusing as prescribed drugs, if not more. Consumers are often left wandering the pharmacy aisles, sorting through tens of medications all with the same label, side effects, and use cases. A regulated AR app can be used by the consumers to scan the aisles and highlight the medication that best matches their symptoms and needs.
As their pricing structures continue to fall under scrutiny, pharmaceutical companies must completely alter their marketing structures to keep up the level of profitability necessary to research new drugs. The landscape is slowly shifting from mass-market sales to target market sales. Sales reps are no longer simply looking to sell the largest amount of pills, using the same advertising for each sector, but target the most loyal doctors and consumers. Sales managers are beginning to market their products differently to areas within their territories based on customer and physician data, ensuring the best use of their sales dollars as prices are being forced down.
Companies like Cincinnati-based Relevate are harnessing the power of customer data to assist pharmaceutical companies in the creation of regionally targeted marketing solutions. They use a combination of public and private data sources to map out the most lucrative markets for pharma brands, and then create white papers, brochures, and digital content to send to both physicians and consumers to raise awareness. I had the opportunity to shadow at Relevate for a few days this past summer, and I can honestly say that their machine learning algorithms and analytical know-how are unlike anything I have ever seen.
The disruption of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries has been a long time coming, and I believe when it finally hits us in full force, it will have a major impact, not only on our economy but how we live our day to day lives.