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Are you considering VR to be a part of your digital transformation journey? Caution!

Many large pharmaceutical companies tried to adopt virtual reality (VR) as an automated tool for enhancing their employees’ knowledge and skills. But they either gave up the idea at the pilot stage, or failed to scale it up to a wider organization level due to lack of sight on a few practical issues at the beginning of the project. So, before we embark on this journey, it is important to be aware of the critical success factors, that are specifically applicable to Pharma industry.

The advantages of VR-based training and its usage in high-risk contexts have been demonstrated by several studies and successful use cases across many industries. It has also gained significant attention as a potential training tool in the pharmaceutical industry. While VR-based training has shown promise in many areas, there are also challenges and limitations that contribute to its failure or limited adoption in the pharma industry. Here are a few critical points to consider before venturing into VR-based training:

  1. Content development: Creating VR-based training content for the pharmaceutical industry can be complex and time-consuming. The accurate representation of pharmaceutical processes, equipment, and environments requires a thorough understanding of the subject and the skills required for detailed modelling and simulation. The development of realistic and immersive scenarios that effectively mimic real-world situations can be challenging, especially when complex pharmaceutical processes and procedures are involved, and the VR developers have very little to no experience with such operations.

  2. Continuous updates: The pharmaceutical industry is dynamic, with constant advancements in technology, research, regulations, and best practices. VR training content needs to keep pace with these changes to remain relevant and effective. If the content creator is not abreast with such changes or the design does not permit for regular updates and improvements, it may quickly become outdated, losing its value, and failing to meet the training need of the users.

  3. Integration with QMS: Virtual reality (VR) technology adoption in the pharmaceutical sector calls for meticulous planning and implementation into the company's Quality Management System (QMS). In order to ensure that the QMS tackles any potential risks associated to VR, such as data security, device reliability, content accuracy, regulatory compliance, user safety, and so on, it needs documented evidence of the application of relevant procedures and controls. In absence of this, it may lead to inconsistent training practices, lack of traceability and accountability, misalignment with quality culture of the company, non-compliance with regulations and standards and finally missed opportunities for continuous improvement.

  4. Customization and adaptability: VR training content often needs to be tailored to meet the specific needs of different pharmaceutical companies or even different departments within a company. However, pre-packaged VR training solutions may lack the flexibility and customization options required to address the unique training requirements of a specific group of employees. The inability to adapt the content to align with the specific expectations can result in a mismatch between the training provided and the trainees’ needs.

  5. Use of VR technology: While VR can be effective in simulating certain scenarios and tasks, some pharmaceutical training needs may not be fully met by VR alone. For instance, certain topics such as, documentation & record keeping, investigation & root cause analysis, and GMP auditing are better addressed through a physical training or hybrid mode of trainings. Therefore, in the overall scheme of the company's learning management system, the best selection of the training modes requires a good awareness of the training subjects, and the opportunities and challenges presented by the available training options.

  6. Cost of implementation: The ongoing expenses of VR-based training programs could be much lower than traditional trainings not only because, they are efficient as a training tool, but also because they require fewer physical training supplies, less travel, and less teacher time. However, the initial implementation of the systems necessitates a hardware and application development expenditure. Therefore, this could be an obstacle for upscaling, if not well planned with the selection of an appropriate technological platform fitting the needs of the organization.

To overcome these challenges, it is crucial to involve industry experts, instructional designers, and VR developers who have a deep understanding of various domains within the pharmaceutical industry. In order to ensure a successful adaptation of this technology in pharma, which ultimately satisfies industry standards and accomplishes the required learning outcomes, an iterative design method, effective collaboration, ongoing feedback, and a structured plan are all essential.

If you want to learn more on the above subject, please feel free to reach out to us.

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