Sramana Mitra: The topic is of huge interest to me. I’ve actually written about this quite a lot. I’m thrilled that our paths crossed and we are able to discuss this topic at length. Let me start by peeling the onion a little bit for our audience to understand what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for. Where do you position your company’s offering?
If you’re talking about medical training, the assumption is that doctors are going to go to medical school and get trained. It’s a very lengthy process. It’s an expensive process. Obviously, it’s hard to train millions of doctors in full-fledged medical schools. Are you, somehow, addressing that issue?
Norm Wu: We’re doing a number of things. What we do at medical schools may be slightly different from what we do with nurse practitioner schools. Let me first talk about medical schools. In the US, the capacity in medical schools is not growing very quickly. That’s because there are limited residency slots. Schools that try to increase their capacity will have trouble matching their graduates into residency programs.
They don’t tend to expand capacity and the schools are rather small. You do see new schools starting up from time to time, but more or less, the focus in the US is on creating better doctors. There are some that are focused on finding ways to accelerate the traditional four-year undergraduate education program but mostly, it’s a quality thing.
One thing that they’re keen on doing in medical schools is finding a new way to teach basic sciences, which the first two years of medical schools are traditionally focused on. These are things like anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry. They’re trying to find ways to teach that in a clinical context, both to prepare students for the last two years in medical school and also to lay a much better foundation for their medical knowledge.
Often, you’re studying these hard basic sciences but you don’t really understand how cardiovascular physiology translates into medical issues. When you start going out in your clerkship, you sometimes get this deer-in-headlights phenomenon. It’s like, “How do I translate that science to what I’m seeing in the clinic? How do I integrate that together with the assistance of a mentor who may or may not be good at helping to tie that all together?”
There’s a strong interest in learning about the heart at the same time that you’re learning about the different diseases and the symptoms that would manifest with those diseases. That’s what we help do in the first two years of medical school. We can simulate an entire patient encounter starting with the history. We can allow the student to perform virtual physical exams doing anything from listening to the heart or the lungs, taking blood pressures, or examining the eyes, all in an extraordinarily interactive multimedia intensive way.
We can help them develop hypothesis on what are known as differential diagnoses—all the possible diseases for which those symptoms might be associated with. Then we can help them figure out what kind of diagnostic tests to order – anything from an X-ray to an MRI. We can walk them through confirming the definitive diagnosis and treatment plan.
Because all this is cloud-based, we can provide personalized feedback at every step along the way to help them understand this basic science in a clinical context. We can incorporate throughout this patient case scenario all sorts of basic science learning. It might be based on videos or medical illustrations. It’s a nice way to integrate all that together.