By Anika Syeda
Imagine Instagram if it was exclusively for medical professionals. Replace the feed of chai lattes and celebrity fashion with a stream of wounds and healthcare anomalies that will make your stomach turn.
This is Figure 1 in a nutshell, a medical photo-sharing platform that allows medical professionals to share and discuss cases.
“We like to think that our mission is a bit more grander [than Insta- gram],” said Katie Sullivan, Figure 1’s communications associate.
This June, the startup raised $10 million dollars in funding. According toTechCrunch, Figure 1’s complete funding presently rests at about $23 million.
Co-founded by Ryerson University communications professor and chief executive officer, Gregory Levey, Dr. Joshua Landy and senior software developer Richard Penner as chief technology officer, the platform celebrated its fourth birthday in the summer.
The origin story of Figure 1 takes place in 2012, when Dr. Landy was a visiting scholar at Stanford University.
“He was observing how physicians use smartphones in their day-to-day life,” said Sullivan. “Physicians were using their smartphones in their practice to talk to colleagues and discuss facts of their cases.”
While the doctor found the phenomenon interesting, it posed several problems. Firstly, the behaviour was not privacy conscious. Nor was it efficient, because the outreach stopped at the few medical professionals they knew in their distinct field.
The three sought a solution that not only facilitated healthcare com- munication, but was designed from its conception to address the issues of patient privacy assurance and increased outreach. As a result, Figure 1 was born.
The business initially gained foothold in the Digital Media Zone, a Ryerson based start-up accelerator.
Today, the app has registered users in over 190 countries, announcing in January of this year a milestone of one million active healthcare professionals.
Three quarters of U.S. medical students are also using the app.
Available for free on iOS, Android, and as a desktop application, anyone can join the Figure 1 community.
Users can be verified by the app’s personal verification team to establish themselves as a licensed healthcare professional or student. In the same way Twitter or Instagram verifies its celebrity users, Figure 1 shows that users are verified with a small checkmark badge. The platform only allows complete access to all its features to verified users.
Last year, the app launched a new feature: direct messaging. In accordance with the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act, message data is encrypted as the message is sent, while in transit and when stored on the Figure 1 servers.
The app requires patient consent via either an institutional consent form or an in-app consent form, where participants sign using their finger.
The app’s interface is distinctively like Instagram’s. On the home page is a data feed of cases, often gruesome and gory in nature. Each post consists of an image pertaining to any field of medicine, from radiology to general surgery to veterinary care. The image is generally accompanied by an informative text paragraph. Below is a count of views as opposed to “likes”, a list of relevant tags the poster has personally applied hashtags, and a comments section.
Unlike Instagram, Figure 1 has more scholastic goals. This is reflected in its many unique features.
The comments section is more sophisticated with distinction between conversation threads. At the very bottom is a survey asking if the post was medically helpful. There is also an option to bookmark the post to read for later and a cross-platform sharing function.
Notably, Figure 1’s browsing tab can be manipulated by the user to curate their feed. On the page is a selection of assorted searches, categorized either by anatomy or specialty.
“So, if the cases you were seeing in your home feed weren’t relevant to you,” said Sullivan, “you could narrow it down to cases that are relevant to you.”
Levey, Landy, and Penner’s app continues its occupation of the medical social network with both an ever-growing wallet and userbase.