MedCognition positions for explosive growth in AR medical training

By Iris Gonzalez
Russell Unrath is CEO of MedCognition, courtesy photo.

Augmented reality (AR) can add a degree of realism to medical training, allowing students to feel like they are performing a procedure in real-time. Add in the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s understandable why on-demand medical training methods that reduce travel to training venues are on the rise.

That’s why San Antonio-based MedCognition is gaining traction with its users. The startup has a portable system that provides highly-realistic, clinically intuitive medical simulation training. Called PerSim, the startup’s AR medical patient simulator leverages the holographic capabilities of the Microsoft HoloLens headset. The system is ultraportable for use in nearly any environment for in-place medical training.

Physician and former medical training director Kevin King founded MedCognition in 2016. Emergency medicine clinicians, educators, and computer scientists working in partnership between UT Health San Antonio and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) were behind the company’s launch. MedCognition’s founding team includes King, chief technology oficer and UTSA associate professor of computer science John Quarles, chief medical officer and doctor Hector Caraball, and UT Health assistant professor in emergency medicine Roland Paquette. 

Business executive Russell Unrath joined MedCognition in 2020. He first served as its chief of operations, then interim CEO before taking over as CEO in December.

MedCognition’s base system is built on the Hololens, with a router, two tablets, and 16 patient types with Software as a Service (or SaaS) options to add more content and varieties of patient cases. Unrath said that the startup has “close to a 75% renewal rate of our SaaS platform.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted emergency medicine, driving the need to train even more healthcare providers. Since the pandemic, MedCognition has tripled its year-to-year sales and increased the growth of new customer accounts.

“In our last year of business, we’ve sold more product in 2021 than in all the other years combined to date,” Unrath said. “We’ve also doubled our customer base over the past year.”

A user tries out the MedCognition PerSim AR medical training, courtesy photo
A user tries the MedCognition PerSim AR medical training, courtesy photo.

MedCognition’s CEO said the company is “targeting EMS [emergency medical services] instructors and regions where’s there’s a shortage of medical professionals.”

Stories from their customers reflect the difficulties of training students who may be working remotely from various locations.

“These educators are trying to train students who are scattered,” Unrath said. “One of our benefits is that we can stream content from our Hololens to the students, rather than have instructors moving and setting up mannikins. You only need to reset the simulation by pressing a button, which saves time in training and gives a better learning experience.”

The company is looking to hire software developers to join its six employees working remotely in San Antonio and other locations. With two pending patents and more intellectual property in its pipeline, MedCognition is not raising funding at the moment, focusing instead on sales and building the company, according to Unrath.

MedCognition recently received a $400,000 grant from the National Institute of Health to develop hazardous material scenarios delivered via its augmented-reality platform. The company has also won funding from the U.S. Air Force’s innovation technology program for $750,000 toward research and development of its augmented reality medical training platform for remote use.

With more grant applications in the pipeline for potential funding from the National Science Foundation and AFWERX, a U.S. Air Force innovation program, MedCognition is steadily working toward gaining different kinds of users for its PerSim platform.

“We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire,” Unrath said. “Looking at our commercial sales pipeline, we’re projecting annual revenue of over $2M by the end of this year. We’re here to disrupt the training mannikin business.”

The featured image is of Russell Unrath, CEO of MedCognition, courtesy photo.

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