Figure1 is being dubbed as Instagram for medical photos. But, although both apps share similar concept, Figure1 still has more to offer than the most popular picture sharing app. It allows medical professionals worldwide to access a plethora of medical images made and shared by other users, which could help them identify new clinical pathologies.
And how it all started?
Dr. Joshua Landy, a Canadian Internist and Critical Care Medicine Specialist, was frustrated by a lack of large medical image database that could provide more visual info on various medical conditions. Most of the pictures available were distributed either behind a paywall or via Google Images that don't offer much selectivity.
Sharing images via email or messages was a solution, but not a good one. That's why Dr. Landy, along with his colleagues, helped in creation of Figure 1, a free, crowdsourced medical image sharing app for health care practitioners worldwide. Actually, anyone can use this app, whether you are medical professional or not. All you need is an account. And that's the first step you have to do upon opening the app – registering and verifying your account.
However, in order to help preserve the integrity of image submissions and user discussions, Figure 1 allows doctors to register as "verified physicians," if they verify their account via email. To distinct verified physicians, Figure1 allows their name to be displayed in a different color.
Here you choose your username, email and password, along with your specialty. You can add your full name and address later in the profile settings, but that is entirely optional.
Upon registering, you see Home screen with images from several categories you're following by default. Users can change their preference in the settings and choose the categories of their interest. Images are presented in familiar format with picture, username who posted it with their specialty and a brief description of an image, i.e. the condition presented. Other users have option to comment and favorite the image, or follow the user who posted it. Tap on the image opens the discussion, where users can analyze the condition via series of comments.
And that's why Figure1 is impressive. It's not just a static database, but also allows user interaction via the comments section. The Home screen of the Figure1 app is basically a "live stream" of images that are being actively uploaded by the app community.
Another impressive aspect of Figure1 app is its UI. Despite the fact that it's been loaded with a large number of images , UI is clean, fluid and loading smoothly. It never freezes, becomes choppy or shuts down the app.
Browse screen offers more refined access to the pictures, whether based on anatomy or specialty. From the top of the screen, medical professionals could also access all cases based on their specialty. Since my specialty is Allergy and Immunology, I saw 44 cases related to Allergy waiting for my response.
The search function also gives the access to various conditions based on the search keyword.
Since this is an app relying on interaction, users have an ability to send direct messages to their colleagues. Also, you'll receive a notifications, depending on your activity.
Uploading pictures is easy. By default, app has an access to the pictures on your phone. All you have to do is tap on red circle with a plus sign on Home or Browse screen and add picture you want from your phone.
But before you do that, you should consider dealing with privacy matters first. You'll notice the Consent form at the bottom, which is really necessary to address the privacy concerns when doctors submitting photos of their patients. After typing in the patient's name, a HIPAA authorization form is displayed. Once you click the Agree button, your patient must sign digitally on the screen with their finger, and then, the completed consent form could be sent via e-mail to required parties.
Face detection algorithm is another neat aspect in protecting privacy. This algorithm automatically blocks out the face in any submitted photo. You can also use app's included editing tools to further edit pictures and to remove any identifying features from each photo. Finally, the Figure1 app allows any photo to be flagged for privacy concerns.
Although this a high quality app with a great and fluid UI, there are several hiccups that spoil the overall impression. Namely a problem with a search option. Although stated it offers an auto-complete to ease the search, we couldn't invoke it. Another problem with search was too broad scope of results. For example, when searched for specific term like "hippocampal sclerosis" referring to a neural damage, we got related results from neurology, but we also got many unrelated results, for example from abdomen, lung and oncology medicine.
Still, Figure1 is impressive app with a lot of potential and plenty of room for additional features, like hashtags, which are used by many users, but still not being searchable. Image rating (thumb up/down) would also be a nice addition that would help filter out quality images.
Benefit: Almost everyone interested in medicine, including medical professionals, students, educators, patients, etc.