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Can virtual reality make a real difference in arthritis?

Paul Atherfold, Patient Value Unit Immunology
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Paul Atherfold, Patient Value Unit Immunology

UCB is backing a new VR programme designed to improve education and care of people living with rheumatoid arthritis.

Advances in medical science have helped us to bring life-changing medicines to people with autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. However, communicating the complexity of disease and innovative therapies to patients can be challenging.

It is important that people being treated for autoimmune disease understand what is happening in their body and how their medicines help to address the problem. Not only are people entitled to a clear explanation of the medical care they are receiving, understanding how medicines improve symptoms motivates them to take their medication.

So, how can we address the challenge of improving compliance with medication prescribed by clinicians? At UCB, our commitment to innovation is not confined to drug development. We are constantly exploring how new tools can deliver value for patients.

That is why we are partnering with Cognitant to bring virtual reality (VR) technology to people with rheumatoid arthritis. Through a VR programme at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the UK, people prescribed medication for rheumatoid arthritis will be offered an immersive programme featuring virtual consultations with a consultant rheumatologist and nurse.

Developed in partnership with Cambridge Arthritis Research Endeavour (CARE), the programme will help patients to understand all aspects of their consultation, and in turn, better self-manage their disease. Patients will be offered an interactive explanation of their disease process and the mode of action used to treat it. The VR technology provides a 360-degree video demonstrating the administration of the medication, and a series of infographics and virtual objects to aid knowledge retention.

We are excited to learn how people using the technology respond to this innovative educational tool. Our hope is that it will help them to stick with their prescribed therapy and, ultimately, deliver better outcomes.

This collaboration represents a new approach to care in which clinicians not only recommend medication but also prescribe high-quality interactive health information. Doctors will provide patients with a link or a QR code allowing them to access an app which unlocks their VR experience.

The initiative also reflects UCB’s commitment to partnership. By working with a technology partner, a charity and a leading hospital, we aim to empower patients to take control of their health and live their best lives.