March 18, 2016

Wharton, Osmosis & MedEd Innovation

What does Wharton business school have to do with medical education? This: Wharton’s 2015 ‘Reimagine Education’ conference promoted disruptive innovation in education by bringing together a who’s who of EdTech leadership (Apple’s Director of Learning, activist Jeremy Rifkin, Noodle Education’s founder, the CEOs of Kaplan and QS Quacquarelli Symonds, etc.) but also by sponsoring a $50,000 innovation contest featuring 40 judges and awards in categories ranging from e-learning and hybrid learning to presence (i.e., classroom-based) learning and teaching delivery.

And that’s where medical education comes in. Graduate medical education has been struggling to overcome decades-old post-‘Flexner Report’ conventions of physician training, whether by shifting to competency-based and patient-outcome-based metrics, integrating rapidly evolving medical technology into curricula, or adopting simulation and virtualization to augment traditional classroom instruction. Wharton’s conference recognized these efforts by awarding its overall winner to Osmosis, a MedEd innovation group at Johns Hopkins University. As QS Quacquarelli Symonds CEO Nunzio Quacquarelli described it to Knowledge@Wharton, Osmosis is “a bunch of medical students and PhDs, and their concept is that the learning requirements for a medical student in America today or worldwide are huge. The volume of knowledge they have to assimilate is huge, and in fact, the dropout rate among medical students in the U.S. is in the tens of thousands, which is costing universities huge amounts of money because those students just can’t pass the exams. So they’re using technology to support the learning of those medical students with videos, quizzes, memory cards and other support tools that actually are integrated within the medical curriculum for each element, and support the student’s learning. What they can clearly demonstrate — and the reason they won – was that students were highly engaged with this new form of learning, and it was effective. They were significantly increasing the success rates of those students, which is what we’re looking for. Because it’s provided through technology, it’s clearly scalable. They’ve got 300 medical schools using it now. They can extend that number of medical schools. They are finding a solution that can help avoid the high dropout rate among medical students, which is a real improvement in the efficiency of medical education.”

What exactly is Osmosis? Co-founded by Shiva Gaglani, an MD/MBA at Harvard Business School and Johns Hopkins, Osmosis ( bills itself as “an automatic study plan for every lecture”: a smartphone app that connects the medical student to more than 25,000 flashcards and study questions with quizzes that periodically test the student’s absorption of content. More than an app-ified flash card system, Osmosis uses algorithms that gauge how much you know and where your future learning should focus, group analytics and interactive functionality so you can learn with others (injecting the incentive of competition), and the ability to upload and take notes on your course documents. With 30,000 med student users, Osmosis is bringing tech innovation to medical education.