Start-up Nation: Pocket Anatomy

App makers getting under our skin

 

“It’s fair to say that people have a real interest in how the human body works,” says Pocket Anatomy CEO Mark Campbell, and whether you’re a doctor, nurse, Leaving Cert biology student or just curious about how exactly your brain works, his company’s apps can help.

The fourth generation of the company’s eponymous iOS app was released last week with the updated version now including full female and male anatomies, alongside recently added content related to the circulatory and lymphatic systems.

The new version of Pocket Anatomy adds to a roster of medical apps such as Pocket Brain and Pocket Heart, all of which have been developed in the company’s NUI Galway offices over the past three years, allowing those who download it to navigate the inner workings of the human body using 3D animation.

Far from being simple renderings of the body, though, the Pocket Anatomy app, for example, offers a musculoskeletal anatomy guide by using nine layers of high-definition “photo-realistic illustrations of the human body”.

“You’d have students studying human anatomy using Pocket Anatomy to revise and study for an exam,” says Campbell. “Then there’s healthcare professionals using it as a means of supporting their doctor-patient communication.


Healthcare dialogue
“Our products facilitate a more meaningful dialogue between healthcare professionals and their patients by using our three-dimensional graphics. If it’s pinching on a nerve or pain in any part of your body and you want to discuss that in a visual sense, apps like ours are used.”

Pocket Heart includes a real-time 3D model of the heart, while Pocket Brain comes complete with “eight layers of 3D neuro-anatomy, cross-sections, nerve pathway animations and clinical case studies”. Each of the apps comes with anywhere between 30,000 and 100,000 words of learning material, alongside quizzes, clinical cases and the option of adding personal notes while flicking through the content.

Campbell explains their business model is “very transparent” with a “range of free apps and a range of paid apps” available. The premium-level paid apps cost between $10 and $20 (€7.65 and €15.30), with all anatomical content residing within the application, meaning no internet connection is needed.

In its Galway offices, the “eclectic” workforce of 15 is a mixture of people with backgrounds in medicine, software development, 3D animation and game development with the latter vital as they “hope to harness elements of gaming and game-based learning to promote the understanding of medical education and healthcare” within each app.

Campbell, whose career has included working with medical animations and e-learning content, says that alongside their product development team, Pocket Anatomy has an advisory board comprising doctors specialising in cardiology, neurology and general practice to help ensure the products are as helpful to medical professionals as possible. Indeed, the company’s first apps were developed in conjunction with Dr Brendan Wilkins, an anatomy lecturer based in the NUI Galway’s College of Medicine and Health Sciences, with a team of third- and fourth-year medical students helping to specify and write the app content.

This level of detail in product development has led to a situation where the company’s apps are now commonly “in use in multiple higher-education universities in North America” with a growing number of US physicians also taking advantage of Pocket Anatomy products.


Quest for investment
While the US is a major target market, Campbell also notes that healthcare practitioners “in Ireland, the UK, France, Germany, Japan and China are also using our software, and we’re looking at expanding our software in multiple language localisations”.

To help with this type of expansion, Campbell says the company is actively looking for investment. The release of the radically expanded version of Pocket Anatomy is a “critical” moment in the company’s history, Campbell says.

The “debt-free and profitable” start-up is now “in the market for first-round funding, which will help us fast-track many of our ambitious plans for growth over the coming three years”.

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