Often billed as the “Netflix of medical education,” the streaming service GIBLIB offers subscribers medical lectures and surgical videos from the world’s top doctors. The company boasts the largest library of medical talks, as well as full-length procedures filmed in 4K resolution and virtual reality (VR). I sat down with CEO and co-founder Brian Conyer to discuss how GIBLIB is expanding access to medical education.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length
What was your inspiration for GIBLIB?
I have about ten years of healthcare experience on the business side of medical devices where I saw a need for video education. Physicians traditionally learn about new procedures by traveling to operating rooms, and companies where I worked spent tons of money flying them all over the country. Also, when it came to conferences there was a perception that attendance was declining. However, when I ran the numbers I found attendance was actually steady among older generations, but it was hard to get younger physicians into the pipeline. That’s when I had my “aha” moment. People from my generation consume a lot of information on connected devices. My co-founder and I understood that by creating a library of surgery videos and medical lectures that are filmed with the best equipment, available on-demand, and delivered in a compelling format, we could provide greater access to medical education.
How did you land on a “Netflix” or subscription-based model for distributing content?
My co-founder Jihye L. Shin comes from the entertainment industry where she was the manager of domestic digital distribution at Paramount Pictures. She understood how entertainment creates content, monetizes it, and distributes it. We wanted to apply those same practices to the medical education space and adopted the subscription model.
Are you selling your service primarily to individuals or institutions?
Right now we’re taking a direct to consumer approach, but we also have institutional subscribers. Because healthcare moves so slowly, we started out going after physicians – they are our biggest subscriber base. For every two people that sign up for our 4-day free trial, one will become a paid subscriber. This 50% conversion rate tells us we’re providing compelling content that physicians want to see. In the future, we hope to attract enough medical students and residents that their institutions offer to subsidize the cost.
When did you first realize GIBLIB was gaining traction?
There are two moments that stand out. In the beginning, it was hard for us to get content partners (institutions) that would allow us access to their operating rooms or film their physicians delivering talks. It took us a full year to get into USC hospital because we had so many hurdles to jump through. But after we filmed the footage, we used it to demonstrate our capabilities to potential partners. From there it took us only days to get into other elite, top-tier institutions.
Still, we weren’t making any money. So the second big moment was when we put up a paywall, and with very minimal marketing we got that 50% paid-customer conversion rate. And as we expand our marketing to reach more doctors, we’re noticing that the 50% conversion rate is staying the same, it hasn’t drifted down which tells us that audiences are enjoying what we provide.
How do you film a live surgery?
Operating rooms are very sensitive environments so we need to be as unobtrusive as possible, which is why we only send a few people to the site. All our equipment fits into a backpack. It’s the type of gear they use for extreme sports – lightweight, 4K cameras that we can mount without causing disruption. We mic up the physicians live during the operation who will then walk us through the procedure so we know how to edit the material.
What are some of the benefits of VR over traditional 2D video recordings?
VR is an exciting technology and I believe that all medical clinicians in the future will use VR headsets as part of their training process. It’s a great tool for immersing someone into the operating room environment. Still, right now I don’t see the value of VR being significantly greater than that of traditionally filmed content. But as technology improves we’ll see it be more interactive, and we’ll grow our 360-degree video library of the world’s best surgeons so everyone has access to the Mayo Clinic, UCSF, Cedar Senai and others.
How many people are using the VR headset with the GIBLIB service?
It’s a small percentage, maybe 10% have VR access. We can provide an Oculus headset for a fee, or if they have their own we’ll send them the app they need to access virtual reality content. We’re finding that institutions that have the gear are utilizing the VR experience more heavily.
Who are your competitors?
We don’t have any direct competitors, but still we have a lot of competition. We see ourselves disrupting publishers or traditional print by bringing video and audio into the medical education space.
How do subscribers consume your content?
Every Tuesday we release new content and that’s when we get the most visitors to the site. Right now subscribers come and browse the latest offerings, but as we get more content we hope to provide a more curated experience.
What are some of the challenges you’re facing?
Getting enough content. It can be expensive and difficult to acquire. There are a seemingly endless number of specialties and we have physicians requesting a wide-variety of topics. It’s a great problem to have because it shows us they’re interested in what we’re providing. But we’re a small team with a limited budget so it’s challenging creating content at scale.
You received an impact investment from the Michelson 20MM Foundation to help grow your company. How do you plan to use it?
We’re fortunate to have the support of Michelson 20MM especially with Dr. Michelson being a retired orthopedic surgeon himself. We’re investing the money into the content team and building out our library so we can provide medical education to a global community. We really believe that everyone should have access to the world’s greatest educators and everyone should be able to learn from the best.
Phil Kim is President at the Michelson 20MM Foundation.
Michelson 20MM and its initiatives are made possible by the generous support of Dr. Gary K. Michelson, M.D. and Alya Michelson.