As video conferencing continues its pandemic-indued stranglehold over human interaction, a study by The Conversation UK has found that workers who primarily communicate with their colleagues remotely are far less effective at building relationships than those who can do so face to face.
Across all industries, video meetings have left both digital and interpersonal connections strained. With major live events and meetings on an indefinite hiatus, brands have lost the ability to market their products in-person – and pharmaceutical and medical device companies are no exception.
Medical professionals have always been used to a certain amount of video conferencing, with colleagues stationed all over the world and not enough time to travel to meet them all face to face. But Covid-19 has meant that almost all of these workplace interactions have been relegated to the online arena.
Pre-pandemic, 64% of meetings between sales reps and medical professionals were in-person, whereas during the pandemic 65% have been virtual, according to an Accenture survey. When it comes to interactive practises like product demonstrations, a certain amount of information can get lost in translation through the screen.
Well-aware that virtual video meetings come with certain limitations, medical video game developer Level Ex has turned its hand toward a new gamified solution to help drug companies engage with doctors more effectively. The company has launched two peer-to-peer education platforms – HuddleUp and Remote Sales Detailing Games.
“Think about the ability to provide a more personal, one-on-one approach between doctors and sales reps,” says Level Ex chief revenue officer Tom Donnelly. “We offer this experience in which reps and healthcare professionals can collaborate with the same medical scenario in real time.”
What does Level Ex have to offer?
HuddleUp is a multiplayer platform that allows pharma and medtech sales reps to bring together up to eight healthcare professionals to carry out clinical strategy, puzzle and knowledge-based games to educate physicians around any medical scenario.
Donnelly says: “HuddleUp is essentially a replacement or enhancement of peer-to-peer education. The host sets up the event and can guide the physicians in whatever it is they’re trying to do, whether that’s clinical decision making, dosing, new products or new indications for products.”
Meanwhile, Remote Sales Detailing Games gives pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to develop unique, interactive gaming experiences where sales reps and healthcare professionals can play through clinical scenarios together via any web conferencing platform.
“Instead of just having a phone call, they can actually explore this virtually together in the same environment, interacting with the same technology,” says Donnelly.
Rather than simply sitting and listening to a sales rep talk about a new product, healthcare professionals are able to interact with it directly, helping to nip Zoom fatigue in the bud before it can start. Both solutions are cloud-based, so there are no healthcare professionals to download a new piece of software before they play. Instead, they simply need to follow a link or QR code to the platform.
Level Ex works closely with each client to meet their goals, structuring the experience of each game for each use purpose. The interactive experiences may show doctors how to administer a new drug or explore the treatment pathway for a patient to see where a new medicine could fit in.
“We tower and build the context and the interactive experiences based on what the client is trying to accomplish,” says Donnelly. “It’s never just one and done or rinse and repeat, it’s this thing that evolves.”
The games don’t come cheap – the development process for each one can take three to six months and cost between $150,000 to $500,000, depending on the complexity of the project, followed by an annual licensing fee. As well as drug and device heavyweights like Pfizer, Level Ex has been working with smaller biotechs that need new tools to approach potential clients.
Does this technology have a future post-pandemic?
Prior to these releases, Level Ex has focused largely on surgical simulation games. Cardio Ex, Gastro Ex, Pulm Ex and Airway Ex are all designed to simulate medical cases to allow clinicians to practice their craft via a videogame.
While these new, sales-focused technologies appear at first glance to be born out of the Covid-19, Level Ex actually started work on HuddleUp and Remote Sales Detailing Games before the pandemic started.
Donnelly says: “As a video game company, we tend to always try to be ahead of the curve. It just so happened that this remote technology was in our toolbox, and Covid-19 has accelerated its development.
“I think what Covid is doing is making doctors realise that they don’t always need to get the information from a sales rep in person. But I want to be very clear – we are not a replacement for sales reps. What we’re doing is providing access and the ability for them to have more meaningful relationships and another tool in their toolbox when they interact with doctors.”
Even post-pandemic, when in-person meetings can once again take place, Level Ex believes the future looks bright for these new tools. After all, they were conceived in a world without social distancing, and even when in-person meetings can take place again, sales reps and healthcare professionals aren’t necessarily going to go straight back to the way things were before.
“I get asked all the time whether post-Covid will rep/doctor interaction go back to the way it was before,” says Donnelly. “But doctors are starting to realise that while reps offer value, they don’t need to see them as frequently in person. The online interaction, if enhanced and done the right way, can actually add more benefits.”