Swapping Selfies For X-Rays: How Instagram For Doctors Could Help Your Medical Exams

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Leslie Termuhlen| Society Writer | lt342713@ohio.edu

Image via Figure1.com
Image via Figure1.com

Has there ever been a time when you or someone you knew went to the doctor and he or she couldn’t figure out what was wrong? Now there is a way for doctors to share information and photographs via an app.

The app is called Figure1, which is a photo sharing app for healthcare professionals. It allows for doctors who are unsure of a patient’s illness to instantly share the photo with doctors in other cities.

“People (already) share cases through text and email,” said founder Josh Landy, intensive care specialist at Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Canada. However, the issue with email is a patient’s anonymity.

With Figure1, the healthcare professionals remove any identifying features, names, number or case information. The patient must give permission for the picture to be shared before the professional posts it.

A team of Figure1 workers, who makes sure the photo is not revealing any personal information, reviews every image. If the photo does not deem fit, it is removed before it is uploaded to the app.

“I think patients should have to sign a consent form, whether it is a CT scan or an image of a body part,” said Hallie Smith, an Ohio University freshman studying biological sciences, pre-professional. “It’s a tool that can be used by anyone in the medical field that wants to learn.”

When registering for Figure1, the user must provide occupational information to ensure the proper use of the app. Only healthcare professionals can add photos or comment on someone else’s photo.

Most healthcare professionals ideally want a second, third or fourth pair of eyes on cases that are out of the ordinary. They use the app for help with diagnoses and also simply for learning.

“I’m a very visual learner. Most doctors are … and we like to talk to each other,” explains third-year medical resident Sheryll Shipes of Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial in Texas. “I would definitely use it because medicine is a field where you learn visually and by having images right in front of you, you can learn.”

The app is available in 19 countries and continues to grow. The images in the app’s library are viewed on an average of 1.5 million times a day. Figure1 is used by 30 percent of medical students in the United States today. The app has been out since 2013.

“I think it would be a good tool if it spread widely past the United States because some illnesses are more relevant in other parts of the world,” Smith said. “We could learn about these illnesses from other doctors in other countries, like the Ebola outbreak.”

Shipes has even seen firsthand how the app has helped diagnose someone with a rare disease. She saw a patient with blistering skin and could not figure out how to treat the illness or even what the illness was. With the patient’s permission, she shared a picture of the condition. The illness is common in Latin America and Asia but rare in the United States. A doctor knew the illness immediately and helped her to diagnose the patient.

Seeing its success has continued to allow the app to grow. Figure1 is allowing the medical world a safe, digitized version of classic medicine.

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