Can med students learn better with Osmosis?

With more physicians taking advantage of the efficiency and accuracy promised by mobile health devices, another flourishing sector in health tech developments aims to improve knowledge and tech adaptability earlier in the health care cycle: mobile tech for med students.

An Osmosis screen shot.
An Osmosis screen shot.

Osmosis is a recently approved iOS app and web platform for med students and schools founded by Ryan Haynes, a Johns Hopkins med student with a PhD in neuroscience from Cambridge, and Shiv Gaglani, also a Johns Hopkins med student, who developed the Smartphone Physical at TEDMED 2013.

The free, quiz-based app, available now, aims to help students learn and retain the voluminous information needed to pass those tricky medical boards. It combines three education concepts: quick, periodic reviews; improved absorption of material through practice questions; and social network-enabled, peer-to-peer learning. Many of its quiz questions were developed in conjunction with content providers such as the American College of Physicians.

The app tracks students’ confidence, accuracy, and elapsed time on each question and will soon publish anonymized leaderboards that allow students to see how they stack up in terms of answering questions. Some 240 invited alpha users, all medical students, contributed more than 1,500 images and videos, crowd-sourced over 5,000 practice questions, and answered those more than half-a-million times.

“Now that we have 6,000 medical students from more than 250 institutions signed up, we anticipate delivering millions of practice questions to our future doctors, keeping them up-to-date on their medical knowledge. This is something I feel strongly about as a medical student who experienced significant cram-forget cycles that don’t lead to long-term retention,” says Gaglani, who is also a Harvard MBA candidate and an editor at “That’s why we designed Osmosis: to flatten the forgetting curve and help medical students learn fundamental medical knowledge to help improve patient outcomes.”

“We’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response to the mobile app. Within one week we became one of the top 100 free educational apps on the iTunes store. Around 1,500 medical students have already downloaded it and collectively answered close to 30,000 questions,” he says.

The web platform, currently in beta and with a public launch planned this fall, has been live since 2012 both at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine in Malaysia, Haynes says. The web platform has added gamification features, including contributor leaderboards. Osmosis will offer institutional subscribers a tiered fee schedule, from free to $2 per user, per month, which includes features like open-lecture videos, resources to take and store notes and course documents, and usage analytics.