About the author: Jack Kaufman currently consults with Osmosis and recently completed the Demand Curve growth marketing career training program. He previously worked at Dreamit Ventures as a marketing and community associate.
Disclosure: Kaufman reports an ongoing consulting agreement with Osmosis, and worked with Osmosis, AMOpportunities and GIBLIB during his time at Dreamit Ventures.
In 2017, 19,254 new doctors graduated from medical school and 201,000 new nurses graduated from nursing school. These professionals and others spend years or decades preparing to enter the US healthcare system. They also spend dozens of hours each year taking continuing medical education (CME) courses to keep their skills up to date.
As you can imagine, with so many healthcare workers to train each year, the medical education market is enormous. A research firm found that the 2015 medical education sector had a value of $25.9 billion, and projects its value will reach $38.4 billion by 2024.
Despite its size and importance, medical education hasn’t changed much over the past few decades. The skyrocketing tuition costs faced by prospective doctors and nurses might be the biggest and most important change in the sector over that period. A report from the Association of American Medical Colleges determined that 86% of medical school graduates have student debt and the median amount of debt for that group is $200,000.
While medical education has felt stagnant since the 20th century, a new group of startups wants to make it more efficient, effective and affordable. In this article, you’ll get a look at what these companies do and the type of impact they’re having.
Medical education content
When doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and other healthcare professionals receive a better clinical education, everyone else gets better care. And, most people in the US want to improve the quality of the care they get. For example, a recent Gallup poll found that 73% of surveyed Americans said the US healthcare system is “in a state of crisis” or “has major problems.”
A number of startups have realized that they can improve medical education by making better content for students to learn from and study with. Here’s a look at the most important companies doing just that:
Osmosis is a medical education platform that helps soon-to-be physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other health professionals learn and retain all of the health sciences info they need to do their jobs effectively. The company offers access to a library with more than 1,300 videos, 15,000 flashcards and 8,000 case questions that cover topics like pathology, physiology, pharmacology and clinical reasoning. More than 600,000 people use the Osmosis learning platform and 1.2 million use the YouTube channel to power their clinical education.
GIBLIB publishes medical lectures and surgical procedures from academic medical centers like Mayo Clinic, Stanford Children’s Hospital and Cedars-Sinai, allowing anyone to learn from the world’s best doctors. It also offers VR-based medical education content, including the first accredited VR continuing medical education course.
ReelDx allows medical students to learn from more than 700 “real patient videos” that cover 700+ cases and 1,000+ topics. The company suggests that by giving students access to videos of real patient cases, they will be more engaged and better retain what they learn. Customers of the service include Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and the University of Louisville School of Medicine.
Medlantis mines thousands of hours of medical lectures and case studies to help doctors and other healthcare professionals find the most relevant content. People can use Medlantis’ content as a supplement for their universities’ coursework or for continuing medical education.
Coursera, a large ed-tech startup that has raised more than $210 million, recently launched a health education track. It’s launching more than 100 health-focused courses in 2019 and has opened enrollment to two public health degrees — from the University of Michigan and Imperial College London — that can be completed online. With this content, Coursera hopes to address healthcare worker shortages.
Several startups have made it their mission to streamline medical education operations and improve access to high-quality opportunities in the field.
The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that by 2030 there will be a shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians in the US. At the same time, a 2017 study associated with the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030 there will be a shortage of 15 million healthcare workers worldwide. Already in 2006 the World Health Organization believed that there was a global shortage of 4.6 million doctors, nurses and other health professionals.
AMOpportunities wants to address this problem by partnering with medical education programs to offer clinical rotations to international medical students. With AMOpportunities, programs can vet the credentials of international applicants and open up an additional revenue stream. International students who want to eventually practice medicine in the US can work with AMOpportunities to get the clinical experience they need to join US residency programs. It’s a win-win.
On the operations side of the house, Thalamus simplifies the medical residency and fellowship interview process for both institutions and students. Residency and fellowship programs use Thalamus to set their availability for interviews; the product then allows students to self-schedule these meetings. The product makes it easy for programs to manage all of their interviews and to communicate with applicants. After booking an interview, students can also use Thalamus to book their travel as well.
Medtrics is another startup that wants to streamline residency program operations. Specifically, its product helps residency administrators and leaders onboard new residents, track ACGME milestones, manage IRIS billing, log duty hours, track event attendance, distribute performance evaluations and more. The company also offers solutions for undergraduate medical education and nursing education program management.
Continuing Medical Education
There are thousands of accredited CME providers that offer in-person and video-based content. Just a few of these legacy providers include Medscape, CMEweb.com and myCME.com. Many incumbent CME sites and courses offer less-than-engaging content that isn’t particularly useful for healthcare workers.
That’s why several startups have stepped in to ensure doctors and other health professionals have access to the most relevant and helpful CME material.
Doximity — the largest social network for medical professionals — offers an accredited CME option for doctors, nurses and physician’s assistants who are on the go. The company’s users can read and submit eligible articles and research papers through the app as a way to earn CME. Doximity will even recommend eligible articles to users based on their area of practice and personal preferences.
AltusCampus is another upstart in the continuing medical education space. It bills itself as “The Netflix of CME,” offering subscribers a large library of CME content in exchange for a low monthly or annual fee. Other startups mentioned earlier in the article like GIBLIB and Medlantis also offer engaging CME content to their customers.
Other opportunities to improve medical education
While the startups described in this article are doing their part to improve medical education, other opportunities exist. NYU made waves when it announced that it would provide free tuition to all students who joined its medical school.
But, the cost of medical school for the vast majority of students who don’t receive full-tuition scholarships is staggering. There’s an opportunity for startups that can offer more attractive financing options to medical school students and better align incentives between them and lenders. The Lambda School of medical education seems like a ways away; however, an income share agreement financing option for medical students would potentially ease some of the financial burdens they face.
Residency programs are another aspect of medical education that could use a dose of innovation. Hospitals expect residents to work excruciating hours — a study found that on average the residents they surveyed had to work approximately four extended shifts per month that lasted 32 hours each. Residents included in the study had to work during their regular shifts each week as well.
The physical and mental toll that this intense schedule can take is serious. At the same time, most residency programs pay a relative pittance when compared to the significant debt new doctors accrue during school. Medscape’s 2018 Residents Salary and Debt report found that the average resident earned $59,300.
What does a “healthy” residency program look like, and how can residents receive fair compensation for their work? The answers to those questions may hold promising startup ideas.
The big picture
As you’ve hopefully seen in this article, a number of startups like AMOpportunities, Osmosis, GIBLIB, and Thalamus are working to improve medical education, surgical training, clinical rotations and the residency interview process. That being said, several problems like the high cost of medical school and the grueling pace of residencies still need to be addressed.