App coined ‘Instagram for doctors’ makes waves

February 19, 2015

A novel photo-sharing app will most definitely not be named ‘the new Instagram’ for those who enjoy posting selfies or photos of their cats.

A novel photo-sharing app will most definitely not be named ‘the new Instagram’ for those who enjoy posting selfies or photos of their cats.

Instead, Figure 1 wants to solve medical mysteries by allowing healthcare professionals to share photographs and information about their patients for learning and diagnosis purposes.

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Patient confidentiality is obviously a concern with the photo-sharing app, but founder Josh Landy, MD-an intensive-care specialist at Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Canada-told CNN that anonymity, ethics, and patient approval are the core of the technology.

The objective, he said, is simply sharing of information and knowledge.

“As a medic himself, Landy understands the need to seek external opinions when treating a variety of patients. One day, when looking around his hospital unit, Landy realized how commonplace this virtual sharing was among his students, as their hands were occupied not with stethoscopes, but smartphones. They were in search of a second opinion, and now they can get third, fourth and fifth opinions in a single click, with his photo-sharing app,” the news site wrote.

Available for free on iPhones and Androids, the app allows users to take a photo, remove any identifying information, and upload it for feedback from the community of healthcare professionals using the technology.

 

Every image undergoes verification by Figure 1 medical professionals to ensure all identifying information has been properly removed. Images can be flagged as well if users believe a photo improperly identifies a patient, which will remove the image until Figure 1’s medical officer reviews it.

Furthermore, patients must give their permission for their photos to be shared.

Technology such as this photo-sharing app is highly exciting, according to Joel S. Schuman, MD, FACS, an Ophthalmology Times editorial advisory board member.

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“Crowd-sourcing works in many areas, and putting together the minds of ophthalmologists to solve problems, as well as educating ophthalmologists through a library of annotated images, is a giant opportunity for benefiting from the power of the Internet,” said Dr. Shuman, director, UPMC Eye Center, University of Pittsburgh.

“The need for removal of all identifiers from the images is clear,” Dr. Shuman added. “It will also be important for users to realize that the annotations of images-if that aspect will exist-will be open to interpretation, much like Wikipedia.”

The app is available in 19 countries-including the United States and across Europe-and has 150,000 users as of summer 2014. According to CNN, this number is expected to be even higher today, as images in the app’s library are being viewed an average of 1.5 million times per day, and are being used by 30% of U.S. medical students.

Landy told the news site that he hopes the app will continue to grow and expand.

 

“It’s overdue for a tool like this,” he said. “I’d like to see it everywhere.”