Dr. Josh Landy noticed a trend among doctors. They seemed to be texting each other photos in order to communicate quickly.
It could be sending a photo to a doctor who isn’t in the hospital at the moment or to a physician’s assistant to give them background for a later checkup.
“One of the things I do as an ICU doctor is I connect with my colleagues keeping people up to date around the patients we care for together,” Landy told Business Insider. “Doing that is challenging because people are busy and often what I find myself doing is taking a picture. Images are particularly economical way of transmitting information.”
There were a couple of problems with that though, one being privacy. Doctors aren’t necessarily making sure the patient is unidentifiable over texts. The other thing is that the images weren’t being archived for future reference and background.
Realising the potential, Landy decided to create an app called Figure 1, the Instagram for Doctors. The app lets users upload medical photos, explore others, and discuss them with the network of medical professionals.
Doctors are using it both to communicate with other doctors in their hospital as well with random doctors across the world who have expertise in different areas. Following a recent update, users can create a detailed profile with personal information like specialties, areas of interest, the institution they’re associated with, and their location.
Now doctors in the United States can see what MERS looks like on a real patient, even though there are only a few cases of the disease in the U.S.
The app is especially helpful for younger doctors who can tap into the expertise of more seasoned doctors.
According to Landy, around 100,000 medical professionals and almost 15% of U.S. medical students are currently using Figure 1. The app gets around 500,000-700,000 image views a day and has about 80 million image views total.
To comply with HIPAA and protect patients, the app removes all identifying features like tattoos from the photo. And a medical officer and team of moderators monitor the app to make sure none of the photos are identifiable. Patients also need to sign a consent form in the app to allow the doctor to share their photos.
Figure 1 also has a verification system in place that adds a check mark to a user’s name when he or she is confirmed to have a medical licence.
“In medicine in particular, you will often wait for a consultant to come and see the patient in person because they need to see some specific aspect with their own eyes,” Landy said. “This is no substitute for caring for a patient, but now instead of saying there is a red rash, you can say this is what it looks like. Now everybody has that capability in their pocket all day long.”