Medical App: Figure 1

First things first, I want to give big props to Dr. Joshua Landy and his company, Movable Science, for creating this awesome, free medical image sharing app! I have been using this app for about a month now and it is time I share my thoughts on it.

Scrolling down my Twitter feed, an interesting tweet caught my attention. The tweet said, “There’s now an “Instagram for Doctors””.

Wait…what? First, I LOVE INSTAGRAM! Second, “…for Doctors”?? I decided to download the app but for a while it just sat there on my phone. I was hesitant to open it because I was not sure what to expect. Most of the “medical” apps I have downloaded in the past were not useful at all, hard to navigate and just did not meet my expectations. It was not until one boring evening did I decide that it was time to test it and see whether this app would stay on my phone or get uninstalled.

What is Figure 1?

Figure 1 is a free medical image sharing app for healthcare professionals. Similar to Instagram, you can post a photo (no, not a selfie) of a pathology that you want to share to the world or with just your colleagues (eg. only people with email invitation to those photos can see).

Why post a photo of a pathology? Well, you may have encountered something really rare that not many people have seen. Take a picture and share it with the medical community! You may have also encountered a pathology that you have no idea what it is and how to treat it. Share it on Figure 1 and have viewers take a stab at it (not literally)! OR…you just saw something cool today and wanted to share 🙂 That is cool too.

Between doctors, it’s just a great way to send a photo and say “this is what is looks like” instead of trying to describe it. Dr. Landy expressed that sending photos through email can be problematic because it is hard to omit personal patient identifiers and the photo “gets drowned” in with all other emails.


Hold it! What about patient privacy? And what if there is a troll on this app and giving me the wrong diagnosis? Figure 1 touched on that already! There is a way to become a verified user. Their username has a checkmark next to it so you know that s/he is a licensed physician/nurse/physician assistant. Regarding patient privacy, the app has a face detecting algorithm that blocks out any faces or tattoos that can identify the patient. A digital patient consent form is also available for the patient to sign with their finger. The app also allows viewers to flag photos that do not comply with patient privacy. Pretty cool huh?

Upon opening the app, I was promptly asked to read and agree to the Terms and Conditions. Next, I am taken to a page to make an account. There is a section for “What is your speciality” in which I selected “Student”. I was scrolling down to see if “Physician Assistant” was an option and HEYYY I FOUND IT! That made me really happy! I can see that this app tried to include as many healthcare professionals, such as “Audiologist, Dental Hygienist, Naturopathic Specialist, etc”. I appreciate that. Another prop to you, Dr. Landy!

What are my reactions to Figure 1?

The first time I used Figure 1, I had mixed feelings of excitement and nausea. I was excited and amazed by this app! You can Google a certain pathology and get photos of it on the internet but the photos on this app are different (to me anyway). Not that the images on Google are not real and happening to real patients, but photos on Figure 1 gives me a sense of genuineness. Like on Instagram: you can Google photos of Miley Cyrus but the photos on her Instagram have a completely different feel to it.

I was feeling nauseous because I was NOT prepared to see these images (another reason why these photos have a genuine feel to it). When filing reports in the clinic, I read about ovarian cysts, hysterectomies, fractures, chest x-rays, etc., but I have never seen any of it before. The first time I saw a hysterectomy, I was NOT expecting to see a uterus to be laying around on the table.

How has Figure 1 benefited me?

Figure 1 has benefited me A LOT! I also think it will benefit other students who wants to get into the healthcare field. Many med-hopefuls, nurse-hopefuls, PA-hopefuls, other-hopefuls, have not seen or touched a real internal human body part, let alone in its most disfigured form.

Screenshot_2014-08-20-19-14-00I came across an image on Figure 1 of a foot that went through a lawn mower. Yup, I saw the toes hanging there, some missing, I could also see the bones! The longer I stared at it, the greater the feeling of some revulsion starting up in my stomach. I put the phone down and told myself: this is what I will be exposed to everyday as a Physician Assistant one day. I need to get use to it, even if it is only on pictures; otherwise, I would have to begin my search for another career. I go through Figure 1 at least once a day and I am starting to get desensitized to the images.

I also start recognizing common pathologies. Pulmonary effusions, ovarian cysts and fractures are some to name a few. It is so cool that I read about these in consultations and x-ray reports but now I get a chance to see them! Thanks to the comments, I am also building my medical vocabulary. I still can’t read ECGS or interpret MRI scans but at least I am now familiarized with how they look like.

There are some users who would post a photo and ask “What is the Dx”. This is a way to stimulate and engage other users in learning how to interpret and diagnose the pathology. There are a lot of different inputs in the comments as to what the diagnosis is. However, if these photos are for educational/stimulation purposes, I wish there was a “Show Answer” button. This way, viewers can post up their guesses first and then double check with the correct answer. As it is now, we have to wait for the original poster to let us know the correct answer when s/he decides to post it…which can be hours or days. This opinion might change since I am not educated yet (starting PA school in two weeks!) but I still think it would be useful for the student users.

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