Android App Review: Figure 1

Here’s something interesting. Figure 1 is a new app that lets doctors share images and information online with other medical professionals.

Crowd-sourcing has become something of a popular thing recently, mostly among small start-ups and artists. But now the medical establishment is getting in on the action.

Rather than knowing every symptom of every ailment (or having to consult something as archaic as a book), now doctors can call upon the pooled knowledge of physicians all over the world to treat their patients through the magic of their phone.

Figure 1 is based around uploading (anonymous, consensual) photos of a patient’s symptom to a shared database, where they can be discussed and compared with other doctors. We all like to pretend that our doctor knows everything, but that’s obviously not the case.

It used to be that if you turned up with some weird malady they’d never seen before that they would have to go and ask the doctor in the room next door for advice, while you sat there panicking that the bump on your foot was probably some sort of cancerous AIDs.

Those days are past us now, as instead of running next door, now doctors who don’t know what they’re looking at can start playing with their phone while you wait. It won’t make them look any more reassuring but at least they will be a bit hipper.

No matter what horrible thing a patient presents with, inevitably someone else somewhere has treated the same thing, and this app is a forum to share that experience. Like any sharing community, the strength of Figure 1 will rely on how many people use it.

A few doctors sharing images and information is great, but lots of doctors doing it is even better. New Zealand physicians have it lucky in that we’re coming into this a bit late – Figure 1 is already set up and running in North America, the UK, Ireland and Australia, with (according to the makers) tens of thousands of healthcare professionals signed up and using it. That’s a lot of brainpower and experience to help you with whatever yucky rash a patient’s just brought in to show you.

Anyone can download the app for free, but to really get the most out of it you need to get ‘verified’ as a licensed physician. This, of course, makes this app a lot less appealing for the common lay person, but still. Gross pictures of weird illnesses? Even if they’re not actually using it for anything useful, this app will still have an audience just for that.

At the end of the day I really want this app to be a big success, if only because I want things like #Thrombosis to become trending tags. Get onto it, doctors.

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