Innovation & Enterprise


UCL startup plans to transform hospital teaching

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

Three people standing around a patient in a hospital bed

7 July 2020

The company has developed a cross-platform application to help facilitate these connections. The app makes it easy to find students and teachers, arrange the sessions, and enhances the teaching with online learning resources. It also helps doctors easily collect feedback for their portfolios. The company is named after 19th century clinician Sir William Osler, a pioneer of bedside teaching.

The need for bedside teaching

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

Oslr co-founder, Dr Tom Simpson, experienced this first-hand: "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." 

So, in 2015, together with Dr Adam Pennycuick (a Clinical Training Fellow at UCL) and MBA graduate Alan Pooley, a former technical account manager at Apple, he founded Oslr. 

Testing and growing the Oslr model

Supported by Health Education England, Oslr developed a prototype platform. Over 500 students and doctors signed up to participate at Guy's and St Thomas' Trust in 2017.

To scale up, in 2018 Oslr took up residency in UCL's business incubator, the Hatchery, run by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. They secured further funding, won the JISC accelerator award and established a full-time team. They also worked 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 among 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."

Pivoting the business

An Innovate UK award of £70,000 helped Oslr to establish a pilot at University College London Hospitals (UCLH). The company was conducting the trial at UCLH when the pandemic struck. Bedside teaching was postponed, and hospitals had to focus on responding to the COVID-19 emergency.

UCL Innovation & Enterprises' Global Innovation team (now Innovate UK Business Growth team), through their Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) activities, helped Olsr create a new business strategy. They also assisted Oslr in winning a further £50,000 from Innovate UK to provide training for social care workers during the pandemic. 

Adam is also a respiratory doctor working in the NHS. He brings the latest thinking on suppression of COVID-19 into the app. Adam said: "Social care workers are facing an unprecedented challenge to continuously learn emerging practices to protect both themselves, their family and the people they care for during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."

"With restrictions halting face-to-face training, there's a clear requirement for remote training and we believe our validated digital health platform could help in delivering and capturing that training."


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Photo supplied by Oslr.

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