A med school study app taps pop culture to reinforce learning

Osmosis Team
Aug 29, 2013

This piece is an article originally published in the MEDCity News blog and written by Stephanie Baum. The original piece can be seen here.

A couple of entrepreneurs who want to improve the way medical school students retain information beyond prepping for the next exam have developed a mobile app and web platform. And who better to understand the complexities behind retaining large amounts of new data from year to year than medical school students?

Ryan Haynes,Osmosis CTO and Shiv Gaglani, the CEO, are classmates from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who also have a background combining neuroscience, technology and education. Its app uses pop culture factoids and video to help explain the right (and wrong) answers as part of its approach to learning.

Not only do they think it will help med school and nursing school students do a better job of memory retention, but it could also have applications for medical device and pharmaceutical sales teams and conference attendees.

The app includes practice questions from content partners such as the American College of Physicians. It also uses push notifications resembling text messages, to help students reinforce what they’ve learned. A scoreboard shows them how well they have performed and where they need work.

Gaglani, who is also an editor for Medgadget, said the company has put an emphasis on context and associations to create powerful memory hooks to reinforce the complex subjects that students are studying. He used an example from his own experience in med school trying to learn an important side effect of an anti-cancer medication called bleomycin: scarring of the lungs. Lance Armstrong rejected it because he feared it would affect his athletic prowess in the longterm. So with a pop culture association, Gaglani said it made the critical point about the drug memorable.In an interview with Gaglani, the co-founder of Osmosis and a member of DreamIt Health’s inaugural class, he explained the company’s approach which uses cognitive learning techniques. For example, Gaglani cited a study showing that people are more likely to remember a person if they can recall what they do rather than simply trying to remember a name.

“Getting your head out of the textbook and understanding how the public relates” to particular medications and conditions helps to frame a student’s understanding of that drug, Gaglani observed.

So far it has signed up 6,000 medical school students for its app. A gaming component for the app is in the works, too.

For the next year, Gaglani said, Philly will be the company’s home, especially since there’s such a vibrant opportunity for medial education collaborations.

The approach by Osmosis reflects a shifting landscape in medical education that includes digital content, iPads and a drive to reduce the time it takes to earn a degree. Startups like zSpace want to make medical education a more engaging, interactive experience from 3 dimensional images using holographs to role playing exercises.