To many, the metaverse may be a nebulous term that is difficult to conceptualize. Adding to the obscurity is a lack of publications that share results from utilizing the technology in a regulated industry setting, such as the biopharmaceutical space. In this issue of The MSL Journal, Shim and colleagues report findings from utilizing the metaverse during a portion of clinical training for a group of MSLs. The authors found that use of metaverse technology during MSL training provided an engaging, dynamic, and interactive environment conducive to learning as demonstrated by all participants passing field certification. I was personally able to experience these results firsthand as a member of this pilot group of field medical professionals. My objective with this piece is two-fold: (1) to share my perspective as an early adopter of the metaverse in medical affairs and (2) generate further discussion around its operationalization and future applications.
I found my first experience in the metaverse to be user-friendly and intuitive. Just like any other web-based platform, our team was sent a link that navigated us to a page where we were prompted to input basic information such as our name and company, check audio compatibility, and even pick a color for our avatars. Although these prompts differ from what I am used to adjusting before a meeting in a 2D setting, I didn’t find them cumbersome or clunky, and in fact I found them fairly easy to do.
Once the upfront settings were taken care of, my team members and I entered into a virtual convention center-like environment. We were able to use our arrow keys to both move around the space or accidentally bump into one another, whichever came first. The latter being a source of constant laughter and a welcomed reminder that we were in this learning setting together. If there was ever a time when a team member needed help, you’d see avatars congregate towards him or her to troubleshoot. Having never met any of my colleagues in real life, this was a glimpse into a different side of their personalities I hadn’t been able to see before. Surprisingly, I found myself engaged and excited to be around my intelligent, funny, and kind colleagues. I also found myself feeling a new and renewed interest in how I’d be learning my MSL curriculum.
We were given a tour of the virtual space and learned there was a main stage, some round tables, and an elevator to access the second floor, all of which would be utilized during our training. The different elements of the space were able to accommodate the different components of our upcoming field certifications. As I entered the metaverse, I saw a proactive medical slide deck flashed on a separate screen along with a reactive Q&A deck on another. These were a few of the training resources we were expected to know for our field certifications. Spatial audio also enabled us to simulate face-to-face HCP interactions through side bar conversations out of virtual earshot from the rest of the group.
In my opinion, these functionalities provide additional opportunities for MSLs to exercise awareness and tailor or her learning journey to address self-determined knowledge gaps. I believe the metaverse training environment had a positive impact on my learning comprehension because I was able to develop confidence in my own ability to navigate the different scenarios that were forthcoming in the field in parallel to sharpening my scientific acumen.
Looking forward, there remains a need to further explore concerns related to the use of the metaverse or other technology platforms in a regulated industry; areas of focus include privacy, security/encryption, and compliance with organizational policies and local laws. But the important thing is that we continue to ask questions in order to advance the profession. In hiring for diversity on teams, how can we use the metaverse to glean different perspectives from MSLs with varying clinical backgrounds? What benefit does the metaverse provide to different types of learning styles (i.e., auditory vs. visual learners)? Will undergoing dynamic learning in the metaverse positively impact team building, self-confidence, and/or rapport in the field? We owe it to ourselves, our HCP colleagues, and most importantly, patients to push the boundaries and create new best practices. I’m proud to be a part of a profession that values innovation and can’t wait to see what new metaverse milestones are accomplished next.
Marie Latsa, PharmD
Marie Latsa currently serves as a Community Medical Director with Syneos Health®. Her previous roles of increasing responsibility within Syneos Health® have enabled her to bring nearly 5 years of oncology experience throughout the product lifecycle to her current role. She is inspired by the positive influence of effective communication on healthcare outcomes and strives to bring an innovative and solution-oriented mindset to brand and other medical challenges