Figuring it Out RCSIsmj staff writer Alexandra Mitcham
No matter how much training health care professionals have in using the precise phrasing to describe a lesion, articulate symptoms, or present a case to consultants’ satisfaction, a picture is worth a thousand words. App Figure 1 has capitalized on this idiom; it is an application that acts as a platform for sharing clinical images used by 2,000,000 healthcare providers worldwide. Clinical images are uploaded to the app by healthcare providers including doctors, nurses, dentists and students in each respective field which can then be commented on by other professionals using the app.
Founded by Dr. Joshua Landy, Richard Penner, and Gregory Levey, Figure 1 has provided an opportunity to change the way healthcare providers share information. The company’s mission is “to democratize medical knowledge and improve the future of healthcare”. As the mission implies, the beauty of this app is that it acts as a bridge, not only for doctors and the like, but for patients. It allows doctors of all walks of life to connect and share knowledge and provides patients with access to global medical opinions from the comfort of their local waiting room. The idea that two eyes are better than one has been amplified to millions. It is also a step in the direction of breaking down socioeconomic barriers to healthcare; the patient’s financial means has no bearing on access to care.
Even further, the app improves clinical awareness. In 2015, cases of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) were on the rise but had not spread to Canada. It is a respiratory illness that can present severely in the acute setting or as a mild respiratory tract infection. A photo of a chest x-ray of a patient diagnosed with MERS was posted on the app which generated discussion about how to differentiate the clinical presentation from more benign infections and management strategies, acting as a teaching tool that increased Canadian doctor’s preparedness for similar patients.
The drawback that comes to everyone’s mind when they think of combining social media-type platforms and medicine is privacy. Professionalism and privacy are provided through stringent verification of users, and in-app tools to remove all identifying features of images posted. In addition, the company uses a team of moderators to vet each image before it is circulated on the app.
While technology needs to be introduced to healthcare cautiously, Figure 1 serves as an example of how global barriers to healthcare access can be broken down and subsequently generate productive clinical discussion while maintaining patient anonymity.
Figure 1. (2018). Available at: https://figure1.com/
Loizos, C. “The Instagram for doctors” just made a fresh $10 million”. Tech Crunch. 13 July 2017. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/13/the-instagram-for-doctors-just-raised-a-fresh-10-million/
“Toronto-made app helps doctors learn MERS syndrome”. CBC News. 19 May 2014. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-made-app-helps-doctors-learn-mers-symptoms-1.2647494