Agency: Intouch Solutions
Virtual and augmented reality are today’s shiny new toys for healthcare marketers and behavioralists. But using them in a meaningful way remains a profound challenge.
Except, that is, when using them to address vision- and eye-health-related conditions. That’s why Regeneron and agency partner Intouch Solutions decided to put VR to work on behalf of eye-disease drug Eylea and integrate a VR and AR app into its Eylea promotion efforts.
“We wanted to make sure we weren’t just using technology for technology’s sake, and that there was an actual problem to solve that VR and AR made sense for,” explains Intouch SVP of strategic planning Chris Humphreys.
He notes the challenge was jump-starting the conversation between patients and doctors about vision change or loss.
Per existing research, patients with vision loss either were unable to describe the changes or simply thought it came naturally as they aged.
“With this condition, we often hear patients don’t know how to articulate the impact of the disease,” says Regeneron associate director of marketing Natalie Mancuso. “We learned it was very difficult to describe it, and oftentimes people just pushed it off as ‘I’m getting older and this is what I can expect.’”
The In My Eyes app uses VR and AR to show how eye disease can alter vision. The AR function uses the phone’s camera to add distortions such as wavy lines or blind spots to the user’s surroundings, while the VR mode adds distortions to a virtual environment. It was Regeneron’s hope that the app might help friends, family, and doctors better understand these disorders.
“The app helps facilitate conversations,” Humphreys adds. “It helps provide empathy between physician and patient.”
Mancuso agrees, adding, “The most important thing is patients recognizing their symptoms. The sooner you can get a patient to recognize they have these symptoms and get them to visit their eyecare specialists, the better chance they have for a good vision outcome.”
Agency: MicroMass Communications
Campaign: Atopic Dermatitis Insider
It sounds obvious, but marketers often forget that in the run-up to a new drug’s market debut, patients sometimes need to be reminded their treatment could be better. This was the central idea of a behavioral program backed by Sanofi and Regeneron, coordinated alongside agency partner MicroMass Communications. Atopic Dermatitis Insider was an education and support program for people with the severe form of eczema.
“Patients with atopic dermatitis tend to normalize the impact of their condition,” says MicroMass EVP of strategy Rob Peters. “They tend to accept the symptoms they have right now because the current treatments aren’t really enough to completely minimize the flares and the itching and rash they get.”
The insider program was designed to motivate patients to try something new to help manage their condition. Because the Sanofi/Regeneron drug wasn’t available at the time the program launched, the marketers and behavioral scientists behind it focused on changing how patients felt about their condition and making them manage it more proactively. This set a high bar, given atopic dermatitis patients have tended over time to accept the status quo.
One of the program’s central tools was a digital wellness wheel that urged patients to assess their satisfaction in different parts of their lives. The thinking was patients needed to see for themselves just how severely atopic dermatitis has been affecting their day-to-day existence.
“It’s a technique health coaches use with patients. It helps them take a step back and look at different areas of their lives and their health more objectively,” says Jessica Brueggeman, EVP of MicroMass’ health behavior group. “It gives them a more objective picture of how their life is being impacted by atopic dermatitis.”
After identifying how atopic dermatitis was affecting patients’ lives, the digital-based insider campaign offered holistic techniques to address existing issues. The tools called on well-known behavioral strategies to teach patients how to distract themselves from intense itching and reduce the associated stress.
While distraction techniques included watching a calming video and listening to music, the MicroMass team noted such activities aren’t always practical. Therefore, the program also suggested dealing with pain or itching by keeping a soft cloth, or another small object, in their pocket to rub or fidget with to distract from the discomfort.
“We wanted to build [patients’] skills so they could do distraction techniques anywhere,” Brueggeman explains. “If you’re at work and experiencing [itching], you’re not going to pull up a video and watch it in the middle of a meeting.”
To ease patients’ mental burden, she adds, the campaign introduced mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
Insider found support in an unexpected corner: from physicians. Because it went beyond disease awareness and education and provided tools, MicroMass discovered doctors were more likely to recommend it to eczema patients.
Like many chronic diseases, atopic dermatitis has an element of self-management. Doctors can prescribe all the treatments in the world, but patients need to manage aggravating factors such as stress, exposure to allergens, and pain.
“We can create a fantastic tool to be used at the point of care, but it’s most impactful when you pair that with other tactics and create an experience over time,” Brueggeman says. “Behavioral science lets us identify the very specific targets we need to address in order to accomplish that behavior change. It lets us create campaigns that are much more actionable.”