A medtech startup that helps aspiring doctors practice their clinical reasoning skills with AI-powered virtual patients has raised a $5 million seed round.
The investment in Oscer was led by Blackbird, joined by January Capital, Inventures, Archangel Ventures and angel investors Brendan Hill, and Jeff Bargman and values the business at $20 million.
The University of Melbourne, University of Sydney and several US colleges are currently piloting Oscer with their students.
The raise will see the company’s focus move to developing a diagnostic support tool for clinicians to get real time second opinions, through transcription, automated coding and analysis of consults. Their goal is to fill a crucial gap in primary care and resource-constrained environments such as rural hospitals.
With research showing that diagnostic errors occur in up to one in seven clinical encounters and more than 80% of diagnostic errors are preventable, Oscer CEO and founder Dr Thomas Kelly is keen help address that based on his personal experience as a junior doctor in a regional area.
“I remember a young woman that had a delayed diagnosis of an aortic injury, a rare but often fatal condition,” he said
.“She ended up being okay, but I always had the regret that we didn’t ask about the pain going to her back because it’s such a rare thing and she was so young and healthy that we just didn’t consider it.
“In a scenario like that, I hope that Oscer can help junior doctors get to the diagnosis more quickly. It’ll be like having the wisest senior emergency doctor with you all the time.”
Dr Kelly said that while demand for online learning options had grown during the pandemic, universities were still in catch up mode.
“Through voice recordings, we’re actually giving students the opportunity to practice speaking to patients as the primary way to hone their clinical skills,” he said.
“Over time they’ll become far better doctors because it’s not about memorising a set of flashcards or checklists without that human experience of talking to a patient.”
His co-founder and Oscer’s CTO, Yu Liu, said they were inspired by new paradigms in deep learning such as AlphaZero to develop their clinical AI.
“Oscer will outperform the existing gold standards and enable a reconfigured workflow for doctors to provide safer, more efficient care to patients,” he said.
Blackbird principal Michael Tolo said everyone makes mistakes at work, including doctors.
“Oscer is about these doctors. It is about offering them peace of mind to help us when we, or our loved ones, need them most,” he said.
“When we first met Tom, he had founded and built the Oscer MVP while working full time as a vascular surgery registrar – his ability to move extremely quickly and with deep customer empathy has consistently impressed us since. We are excited for a world that talks about missed medical diagnoses in the past tense.”