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Figure 1 - Instagram For Doctors

All The Doctors Will See You Now

The potential for social media as a professional attribute has been well-established, most notably by LinkedIn, but thus far it’s primarily served as little more than a digital meet-and-greet. There are plenty of industries which thrive on communication, from hushed tips between City traders to the hashing out of best routes between taxi drivers, but for the most part these happen offline in much the same way they have for time immemorial.

In no industry is the free flow of knowledge between members more essential, however, than with doctors: no one medical professional can know everything, and so they rely on informal chats and consulting with their peers to clear up mystery cases. The main problem with this is that, on the whole, individual doctors only really have access to fellow practitioners in their hospital or department.

Enter Figure 1.

Billed as ‘Instagram for doctors,’ Figure 1 allows medical professionals to upload descriptions of cases which have stumped them alongside an image of the patient in question. Other doctors can then weigh in with experience, opinion, and discussion until a consensus is reached. ‘Instagram for doctors’ is something of a simplification, then – you won’t see a #surgeryselfie – but it’s the same basic principle of photo uploading and sharing.

The question of patient confidentiality is, of course, a vital one. All the photos are of actual current patients, even if they only show a rash or x-ray, and there are not only ethical but actual legal boundaries around such content. Figure 1 features automatic face blurring alongside a paid team of moderators, and also has a built-in compliance form which patients can sign using the touch screen. Since many doctors, especially younger ones, already use mobile social media to share information and discuss patients this is a more robust system of control for such sensitive data. Alongside this, many doctors keep a ‘teaching file’ of photos and notes, and considering recent hiccups in the digitising of medical records this kind of dispersed content assimilation may prove to be distinctly more effective than a more heavy-handed top-down approach.
10% of US medical school students are already users of the apps, alongside a global network of doctors and students who can lend regional expertise to unfamiliar cases. Developed by Dr Joshua Landy, a practicing physician, it was built with use by medical professionals in mind – an excellent example of the way in which social media is increasingly shifting from being a separate entity to becoming the atmosphere in which entire industries operate.

You can register as a non-doctor but doing so will only allow you to view (without commenting on) submitted content, to avoid a host of uninformed voices and endless jokes about lupus.

The app has received $5.7 million of investment so far, and thus has no revenue stream. Considering, however, that in the U.S. alone healthcare and pharmaceutical companies spend around $1.18 billion a year on digital advertising, monetisation for Figure 1 probably won’t be too hard to come by.

So next time your doctor asks if he can snap a pic of that weird thing on your armpit, let him – once they’re done laughing at it, a doctor half way round the world might be able to save your life.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Figure 1 - Instagram For Doctors Reviewed by Douglas Clarke-Williams on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 Rating: 5
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