Figure 1 is an online global network in which healthcare practitioners, including radiologists, can share medical cases and receive feedback in real time. Using the smartphone app or web browser version, practitioners upload an image, write a caption and tag it with a category. Healthcare providers often post images of unusual cases they need help identifying or classic presentations of a disease. After the image is reviewed by Figure 1’s moderator team, the image and caption are available for questions, comments and feedback from the medical community around the world.
“We found people are really responding to that spirit of collaboration that is so ingrained in healthcare and learning through each other in this way,” said Dr. Sharon Vorona, MBBS, Figure 1’s medical director.
The idea for Figure 1 first came about when founder Dr. Joshua Landy saw younger physicians using their smartphones to take pictures of their patients and share the images with colleagues. He saw three problems with this: it appeared to violate patient privacy, their photos could only be shared with professionals in their network, and the conversation generated by the photo was hard to access--doctors had to scroll through text messages or emails to re-access it. After working with healthcare lawyers, Landy and colleagues with expertise in business and software, developed Figure 1, which uses only deidentified photos to ensure patients’ rights are protected. It was an instant hit, especially among radiologists.
Over three-fourths of Figure 1’s top contributors are radiologists.
“I think teaching comes quite naturally to radiologists. Figure 1 is a great outlet for them. One of our users put it quite well: Figure 1 allows them to teach and train across geographic borders and time zones,” Vorona said.
Furthermore, many of Figure 1’s features cater to radiologists. The app and website allow radiologists to upload and scroll through CT and MR images, just like they would be able to on a PACS workstation. Another feature, Grand Rounds, allows users to present clinical cases during a dedicated period of time and answer questions.
Since radiology is already an image-based specialty, sharing photos comes naturally to radiologists. In a recent Grand Round, the radiology department at Cincinnati Children's Hospital was able share their practices and insights with the entire network of healthcare professionals. Grand Rounds are often viewed by practitioners in more than 145 different countries.
Radiologists are not just sharing across borders and time zones; the conversation spans the medical field. In an urban teaching hospital, it’s not unusual for a physician to seek advice across disciplines on specific cases, Vorona said. But for healthcare workers practicing in remote locations, they don’t have that network to rely on. In a recent case, a professional monitoring the health of fishermen at sea, couldn’t identify a rash one of his patients was presenting, so he uploaded the image to Figure 1. The Figure 1 community suggested that patient be tested for HIV. The patient was tested and turned out to be HIV-positive. Using the network of experienced healthcare professionals on Figure 1, this provider was able to get his patient the appropriate diagnosis.
Figure 1 is continuing to collaborate with radiologists to provide more features especially for the specialty, including increasing the amount of content that can be uploaded and adding more subspecialities within the radiology field. “Right now they are all lumped together under radiology and nuclear medicine,” Vorona said. “We are working to break out the field to include radiology, nuclear medicine, and interventional radiology. This way, users can self-identify with the correct subspeciality and find images that are most relevant to them more easily because we know it is such an important tool.”
Figure 1 is open to everyone in the healthcare field.