Working in close partnership with internal experts at Biogen and world-leading neuro-muscular Specialist Neurologist Professor Matthew Kiernan, we developed module 1 of Diagnosis Academy – a 10-minute virtual reality interactive medical education experience to educate General Neurologists in how to recognise the red flags for ALS and to make a referral, within a quick timeframe.
Using a real ALS patient’s case data, we created an avatar patient called Jane.
When General Neurologists enter the experience they find themselves sitting in a typical neurologists office, at a desk with a tray of neurologists' medical tools, computer monitors, and a GP referral. Jane, the avatar patient, is sitting on a chair next to the desk. The mood is set, neurologists are immersed in a patient examination setting.
Their task is to pick up on ‘clues’ Jane provides in responses to the questions they choose to ask her, in the GP Referral (if they choose to read it), and through the results of the examinations they undertake with Jane. As they uncover clues and red flags, they appear on the computer monitor for them to read.
The examinations are highly interactive. Neurologists select the specific examination they would like to do with Jane via a menu, using their controllers. They then use either their hands, hand movements, and the relevant tool from the tray on the desk, to undertake various examinations with Jane. For example, checking sensory responses by asking Jane if she can feel the cotton ball being touched on either side of her face or using the reflex hammer to test reflexes or the wooden tongue depressor to check Jane’s gag reflex.
By paying attention to the clues, neurologists need to choose the optimum order of neurological examinations that will enable them to diagnose and refer Jane within a certain timeframe. This is what we want them to do in the real world. This time they do not have time to undertake a full neurological examination which would be the correct procedure with a new patient. To put neurologists into a heightened sense of learning and to communicate a sense of urgency for referral, they are given 10 minutes to complete the experience.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a neurodegenerative disease that results in the progressive loss of motor neurons affecting nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control.
The initial signs of ALS are often subtle and there are only a few Red Flags to look out for. It often begins with muscle weakness, overactive reflexes and slurred speech and eventually affects the muscles needed to move, speak, eat and breathe. There is no cure for this fatal disease. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is two to five years, but some people live for years or even decades, as famous physicist Stephen Hawking did.
Early referral and diagnosis with treatment at a multidisciplinary clinic, is proven to enhance outcomes for people living with ALS and their families. If a person presents to with any one of the red flags then they should be referred within 4-6 weeks for quick diagnosis and to commence treatment. Currently, the average referral timeline is over 4 months.
Our task was to create a memorable, interactive and compelling experience that educated general neurologists in
how to recognise the red flags for ALS
the importance of early referral within 4-6 weeks for people who present with any one of the red flags, and
the benefits of fast referral to a multidisciplinary clinic
”Once neurologists have seen ALS they always recognise the red flags…it’s important we give them this experience.”
Stephen Verhaeghe, RNZN, Chief Medical Officer, Biogen ANZ
Services & Technology
Insight Build – empathy mapping, identifying the problems to be solved, understanding neurological examination and red flags for ALS
Ideation - concept and solution development, UX, conversation design, scripting, UI, environment design
Make – environment design, 3d modelling, animation, voice record, programming, testing
Oculus Quest II
Biogen is a biotechnology company specialising in therapies for neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.