Figure 1 is a social media platform that caters to the medical community. Healthcare professionals can upload photos and information about their patients’ conditions to a large social network for educational purposes.
The app is especially useful for doctors who are unsure about a patient’s diagnosis. The professional healthcare community can weigh in on any uploaded photo, leading to greater shared knowledge among peers.
“It’s medical education,” said founder Josh Landy, an intensive care specialist at Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Canada. “People (already) share cases through text and email,” he says.
Getting multiple opinions is very important to the medical community. Prior to the creation of Figure 1, Dr. Landy noticed that many of his students were using their smartphones to send emails and texts in search of input from other professionals. Now with the photo-sharing app, medical professionals can get third, fourth and fifth opinions almost instantly.
“We looked at how people are using their smartphones,” Landy explained. “I wanted a way to present all those cases…to create a global knowledge notebook.”
Who Can Use Figure 1?
Anyone can download the app, but non-medical professionals only have access to a modified version. The general public can view the photos and discussions, but cannot actively participate.
According to Figure 1 CEO Gregory Levey, about 70 percent of medical students in the United States are members. Nursing students can also join the community.
There are currently more than two million registered users, a few hundred thousand monthly users and approximately 800,000 U.S.-based doctors on the app. Two-thirds of the users are based in the U.S., and the second most engaged user base is in Latin America. The app is also available in Spanish and Portuguese.
As with anything related to medicine, anonymity and privacy issues are of utmost importance for Figure 1. Users who want to post an image to the community undergo strict credential verification, and only medical professionals who’ve been granted permission can upload photos. Patients must sign an in-app permission form before any photo can be shared. Another safety net includes the removal of any identifying characteristics, such as faces and tattoos.
“Whenever I’ve asked patients if I can share their photo with other health care providers for educational purposes, people tend to be very receptive,” Dr. Landy said in an interview with The Huffington Post.
The app also offers a text-based option for posting, in the event that a doctor did not receive permission from the patient to post a photo. Mental health professionals can also describe cases, a practice which Levey says has been on the rise.