Doctors Turn to App for Help With Patients

Figure 1 is an app that allows doctors to seek help from other medical professionals.
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Figure 1 is an app that allows doctors to seek help from other medical professionals.
figure 1

Photo Credit: Figure1

Imagine a world in which doctors from around a globe can aid in the diagnosis of a single patient. A Toronto-based internist is making this a possibility.

Inspired by what he saw during his residency at Stanford, Josh Landy wanted to recreate the way doctors would consult each other in hospital hallways.

"It can be 4 a.m. when you're working, and you're going to see something that can astonish you," Landy told Vox. "It might be the most classic textbook example of something you don't know about, and it happens when there are not a lot of other people around. So the idea was there has to be a better way to communicate."

After doing a bit of research on his fellow residents, Landy found that 13 percent were already sharing images on their smartphones through email and text messages. How helpful would it be to widen the network beyond one hospital's residents?

Figure 1 is an app that was launched in the spring of last year and already has 115,000 users. It has different sections, such as dermatology, radiology and emergency medicine. It's most popular amongst young doctors, with an estimated 20 percent of medical residents using Figure 1.

Not every user is a medical professional. Landy estimates that 10 percent of users are not in the health care field. However, only doctors are allowed to comment on cases.

Some doctors will share images on cases they simply find interesting, but most are looking for advice on cases. One radiologist, for example, posted the image of an X-ray of an elderly woman who fell. A nurse posted a photo of phlegm, asking doctors what the patient might have coughed up. Another user shared a photo of a patient's urine, which resulted in a 77-comment discussion thread.

To protect patients' privacy, Figure 1 requires that doctors have the permission of patients to snap the photo and that photos posted to the app do not contain any identifying information. 

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