Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality: Key Insights into Early Adopters Fueling the MedTech Value Chain
AR and VR, two transformative technologies have moved out of the world of consumer entertainment and are making a serious impact in the real world. Medical Technology or med-tech presents several avenues to implement these technologies to increase the speed of assessing patients, identify ways to improve patient outcomes, enhance diagnostic capabilities, increase the efficiencies of the hospital, reduce waste, and deliver a positive impact on the bottom line. Immersive technologies like AR and VR have proved to be a game changer for many industries such as aviation, manufacturing and retail. Now AR and VR are coming to the med-tech world to completely transform this sector.
Here are some key insights as to how AR and VR are fueling the med-tech value chain –
The Med-Tech Challenges
The Med-Tech industry today is battling with several challenges, such as:
- The medical devices have to be designed and developed keeping human factor in mind, and that has to be considered right from the design process.
- The speed of innovation is extremely high – What is relevant today will be obsolete tomorrow. Med-tech device manufacturers need to match the speed of innovation and R&D to these constantly shrinking time to market.
- The devices market has become extremely value driven. Big brands alone are no longer the only candidates for impressing the buyer. The buyers see the value the product brings to their lives.
- There is an escalating competitive pressure that leads to pricing pressures.
- The compliance and regulatory landscape are constantly evolving. Approval parameters are becoming complex and stringent. Given the vast laundry list, they are also becoming time-consuming which impacts the time-to-market.
- The focus on precision-driven accuracy has to, therefore, be extremely high in the med-tech market and rightfully so – its lives that we are dealing with here.
AR and VR – The Technologies to Alleviate the Burden
So how can AR and VR help med-tech companies transform their value chain?
R&D and Innovation
Research suggests that while innovation is taking place in this industry, it is happening at the speed of technology and not healthcare. This leads to the episodic success of the devices.
For the greater success of their products, med-tech companies have to ensure that R&D initiatives take a collaborative approach and take into confidence all related stakeholders, the users, the researchers, academia etc. to ensure that the human factor is considered completely and holistically. This level is where the ‘voice of the customer’ comes into play and their needs are taken into account.
With AR and VR technology, R&D teams get better product visualization capabilities. They are able to develop comprehensive 3D models that enable rapid prototyping and
consequently cut down the prototyping and conceptualization time to almost half. It also gives the professionals the capability to view their designs in relation to important aspects like anatomy. What these technologies offer is a new perspective. Perspective helps in assimilating a sense of scale, which is essential in this process as the focus on innovation for greater patient-centricity becomes a primary driver for success.
Product manufacturing in med-tech is highly SOP-driven. These devices have to be precise and accurate and always need to be developed in a highly sterile environment. The QA process is stringent, foolproof, and highly optimized. Med-tech companies thus have to ensure that the stakeholders enabling this are highly trained in their job roles. However, training times can make a dent in the production timelines.
With AR and VR technology, med-tech can gain access to a pool of experts and leverage their expertise to train their workforce. These technologies help the trainees not only understand what a piece of machinery is supposed to work but how to work with it in a real-world setting. The result? Better knowledge retention and productivity at speed. AR and VR also give the learners the capability to connect with these experts to assuage their doubts and gain the clarity they need to understand and execute their job roles.
Sales and Marketing
Demonstrating how a med-tech product will work in the real-world environment and the value that it will bring is a big challenge for companies. For example, while companies spend thousands of dollars to transfer equipment to a medical conference, it is often not possible to show the exact working of the same owing to the statutory and safety regulations. So how can med-tech salespeople sell better and demonstrate the value of their devices?
Using AR and VR, companies can create virtual simulations that can demonstrate exactly how the device will perform in a real-world setting. Showcasing the entire gamut of functionalities, how these features tie into the user’s environment can be optimally showcased and help the sales and marketing teams gain the traction they need.
Support and Service
Med-tech companies today need to be more value-driven through their service offerings. They need to focus on reducing equipment downtime. They are finding ways to empower their service engineers and ensure that the resolution times are reduced.
Companies can leverage AR and VR to train service engineers optimally. With these technologies service engineers know exactly how to negotiate a defect in the learning phase as the knowledge is not theoretical alone. Being highly visual technologies, AR and VR improve knowledge retention and improve training outcomes. Additionally, these technologies also give service engineers the option to reach out to an expert to mitigate problems from the job site itself, thereby improving the service timelines.
Med-tech companies also have the responsibility to train their customers, the doctors, nurses, technicians, and all other stakeholders optimally. Given the complex nature of
these devices, a one-time training might not be enough. They also have to take into consideration the limited time that these people have. Going through user manuals and brochures lead to a huge drain on productivity and impact usage. These companies have to make sure that they train the users optimally in the shortest possible timeframe. But how can they do that?
AR and VR allow virtual simulation training, making training easier and more comprehensive. It is also time-efficient, reduces cognitive overload and ensures better knowledge retention. It also ensures that users are trained by experts in a safe environment and thereby reduce risks of damage or injury.
AR and VR have emerged as serious technologies that offer serious value to med-tech companies. And given their application landscape, AR and VR can completely revolutionize the med-tech industry and help them become more creative and accurate. The disruptive technologies have the potential to change the entire healthcare delivery model, patient care as well as provider training. AR and VR solutions of today are becoming highly contextualized, have simple, intuitive and user- centric UI’s to deliver powerful and transformative experiences that seamlessly connect the virtual and the real-world. It is because of this that AR and VR have moved beyond the ‘shiny-new object’ paradigm and are being looked at as technologies that create innovation opportunities which improve the entire value chain and consequently drive shareholder value.