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UCL startup plans to transform hospital teaching with major grant

Connecting medical students with doctors to enable valuable bedside teaching opportunities is the mission of UCL med-tech startup Oslr.

10 June 2019

The company has developed a platform to help facilitate these connections. It's currently being trialled at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) with the help of a £70,000 grant, co-funded by Innovate UK.

The need for bedside teaching

Learning to examine real patients is an essential part of every doctor's training. However, bedside teaching is on the decline in hospitals and medical schools due to a combination of factors, including hectic schedules and an ageing population.

That was something experienced first-hand by Oslr co-founder, Dr Tom Simpson.

“The ability of the NHS to deliver quality healthcare depends on training. Yet as both a medical student and now a teaching doctor I encountered the frustration of trying to receive and organise bedside teaching,” Tom said.  

Co-founder and Oslr CEO Dr Adam Pennycuick (a Clinical Training Fellow at UCL) added: “You need to bring together suitable patients, learning resources and, not least, students and doctors at the appropriate level and studying the same speciality.”

Against this backdrop, Adam and Tom connected with MBA graduate Alan Pooley, a former technical account manager at Apple, to form Oslr in 2015. The company is named after 19th century clinician Sir William Osler, a pioneer of bedside teaching.

Exploring ways to connect doctors and students

Supported by Health Education England, Oslr developed a prototype platform, which saw over 500 students and doctors sign up and over 100 teaching sessions arranged at Guy's and St Thomas' Trust in 2017.

The early prototype demonstrated a real need for innovation around bedside teaching, and the potential of Oslr. To help scale up, in 2018 Oslr took up residency in UCL’s business incubator, the Hatchery, run by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. They also secured further funding, won the JISC accelerator award and established a full-time team, and secured terms on working with BMJ Learning – integrating online learning materials into the platform.

“Becoming full time and winning a placement at the Hatchery saw a sea change for Oslr,” Alan said. “Working amongst fellow entrepreneurial enterprises with full business support has given us a base to develop a professional platform and successfully apply for the Innovate UK grant with support from the Enterprise Europe Network.”

Testing and growing the Oslr model

The Oslr platform works by connecting doctors and students around patients for bedside teaching. The cross-platform application makes it easy to find teachers and students, arrange great teaching sessions, and make them even better with online learning resources. In this way it's easy to track learning and collect feedback for portfolios.

Oslr is now trialling its latest version through a feasibility and prototyping study at UCLH. That began in May 2019 and will run for 11 months, supported by a £70,000 grant co-funded by Innovate UK’s Digital Health Tech Catalyst. 

Ultimately, Oslr is looking to expand its model with interest from several other hospitals and medical schools in the UK. The aim is for bedside teaching to be supported by innovation and grown across the NHS for the benefit of doctors, students and patients.

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Photo supplied by Oslr.

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