I spoke with Brandon Conover, PhD, CTO, BioMojo, LLC, about the medical training solutions BioMojo provides to both the military and private industry and how they’re adapting to a post-COVID world.
“We use machine learning and AI to develop a software platform to enable telemedicine for military as well as civilian use. We’re used to working virtually, so while it’s always nice to sit together to brainstorm and white board, the shift to 100% virtual hasn’t been hugely impactful for our employees.
Business Development Without In-Person Conferences
Business development is difficult without in-person opportunities. Trade shows and conventions allow us to remain connected to customers, meet with collaborators and partners, and meet with other vendors to see the latest innovations, in addition to showcasing our advancement. Sometimes, that’s the only time of year we’re able to engage one on one with some of our customers.
We try to do virtual events, but it’s not the same. They’re also not getting the participation with our customer base; it tends to be our competitors and collaborators.
Staying Informed in The Absence of Industry Events
The government doesn’t have authorization to travel, so the loss of events has inhibited everyone’s ability to stay abreast of what’s going on in the industry. When we’re finally able to get back together and start learning again, there will be time lost, but I think we can catch up.
This pandemic will have impacts years into the future, and it’ll take time to see the fallout. Government and military budgets are often set well in advance. They know a year or more out what they’ll be procuring. From March to now, budget wise, we haven’t been impacted, but we’ll see the lingering effects from those decisions in 2021 and 2022.
Timeline for Resuming Meetings, Travel
Since mid-June, we’ve been working to put a meeting together in September with one of our customers in the US. It’s now looking like it’ll be cancelled or postponed, although we continue to be hopeful that the situation will improve.
Everyone is very eager to return to travel and in-person events, and everyone wants to do it smartly and not force it. I think people will be ready to pounce when the time is right, but it’s looking unlikely this calendar year.
Better Training for Medical Professionals
During the pandemic, we’ve taken the time to focus more on proposal development and seeing whether opportunities are available. Prior to March, opportunities were based on what our best customers were looking to do. Those would be the near-term opportunities with the most likelihood of being funded. Now with that being more uncertain, we’re spending more time looking at other potential avenues of development.
For example, we’re working on a new integrated platform that uses a learning management system, wearable devices, and other tech to provide better training for medical professionals, first responders, and trauma medics. This platform goes beyond the military into the private sector as well, which puts us in a better position.
We’ve added a new person to the team who is a subject matter expert in trauma medicine, and he’s helping us to better develop the realism and scenarios around training for trauma response. We’re not certain what the availability of medical professionals is going to be in the years to come, so better training is needed for all levels of medical personnel. We’re focused on developing training that’s as true to life as possible, with some virtual reality, mostly augmented reality, and a realistic physiology engine.
Declining Numbers of Military Medical Professionals
The pool of military medical professionals has been reduced drastically over the past 15-20 years. They’ve aged out of their military service and joined private industry or retired, and we’ve not done a great job of back filling those personnel. There’s a risk of not having enough fully trained medical professionals for all the situations in which they’re needed.
We’re focused on enabling those in the service without the 15 years’ experience to become better at their jobs. Our training can help to make up gaps in experience and accelerate training to supplement real life experience.
Fewer young people are joining the military, and fewer are choosing careers in healthcare. Therefore, often medical pros will have to do more and handle the kinds of things that would’ve been incumbent on those with many years’ experience. The goal isn’t to make every medic a surgeon, of course, but to give them the knowledge and training to know what to do next.
There’s potential for BioMojo to provide some telemedicine tech, enabling those in the field to call upon an expert for some onsite advice. We’re also working to make the training they get better retained, you can train and test for retention. With improvements in the approach to training, we’re hoping to better prepare our younger medical pros for situations they’ll encounter.
Doing More with Less
It’s been a good opportunity for us to learn how to craft our approach to civilian healthcare and their budgets. Unfortunately, when budgets are cut, often training is one of the easiest things to cut. We’re trying to provide more effective, efficient training in the same or less amount of time.
In talking with others internationally, they have the same challenges: not enough money and too much to do. So, they’re very interested in our AR/VR approach because it allows them to do more with a lot less in terms of dollars.
Virtual Events and Optimizing Remote Work
You don’t always have to get on a plane and spend the money and time to travel, when you can do a lot virtually. But there are pieces that are difficult to do on a webcam. I think online meetings will stay with us, but we’ll have to shift back to how some things used to be.
We’re learning how to better manage remote employees and be better remote employees. It’s easy for remote workers to feel disengaged, so we make it a point to reach out and talk and have more meetings, but they don’t have to be extremely long. Sometimes it’s three to four minutes to connect and ask how they’re doing.”
About Brandon Conover, PhD
Brandon Conover, PhD is the Chief Technology Officer at BioMojo, LLC assisting with technology roadmap creation, business development, and overall business strategy. Dr. Conover also serves as the project manager on several cutting-edge development programs such as nXcomms: Intelligent Patient Simulation for the Defense Health Agency and Trauma Resiliency Immersive Adaptive Gaming Environment (TRIAGE) and Next Generation Virtual Health Capabilities (NGVHC) both for the US Army. Dr. Conover’s areas of expertise include human-computer interaction, augmented reality head-mounted displays, non-mechanical laser beam steering, and electronics platform development for military working dogs. He holds a PhD and MS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University and a BSE in Computer Engineering from The University of Pittsburgh.