Oscer, an online platform that offers medical students the opportunity to practice clinical reasoning skills with AI-powered virtual patients, has today announced a $5 million seed round led by Blackbird Ventures.
The raise values Melbourne-based Oscer at $20 million, and also saw January Capital, Inventures, Archangel Ventures and angel investors Brendan Hill and Jeff Bargman participate alongside Blackbird.
According to research published by the Medical Journal of Australia, diagnostic errors occur in up to one in seven clinical encounters and more than 80 per cent of diagnostic errors are preventable.
These preventable errors are the reason why co-founders Waleed Mussa, Yu Liu and vascular surgery registrar Dr Thomas Kelly established the company.
“I remember a young woman that had a delayed diagnosis of an aortic injury, a rare but often fatal condition,” says Oscer CEO Dr Kelly, reflecting on his rural rotations as a junior doctor.
“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.”
Blackbird principal Michael Tolo also saw the potential Oscer has in giving patients added confidence in the medical profession.
“We all make mistakes in our jobs - even 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,” Too 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.”
The company’s next step is focused on clinicians, where Oscer hopes to become a diagnostic support tool to get real-time second opinions, through transcription, automated coding and analysis of consults, leveraging its proprietary Medical Knowledge Graph (MKG).
This will be especially useful in filling the gap in primary care settings and resource-constrained environments such as rural hospitals which can lack senior support.
“We have been inspired by fundamentally new paradigms in deep learning like AlphaZero to build a truly superhuman clinical AI,” Oscer CTO and co-founder Yu Liu said.
“Oscer will outperform the existing gold standards and enable a reconfigured workflow for doctors to provide safer, more efficient care to patients.”
The University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney as well as a number of universities in the United States are already piloting Oscer with their students.
“During the pandemic, we’ve seen the growing need for online learning options, but traditional universities are yet to catch up,” Dr Kelly said.
“Through voice recordings, we're actually giving students the opportunity to practice speaking to patients as the primary way to hone their clinical skills.
“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.”
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