Docs Flock to Free Photo App Figure 1

Horrifying laceration? Unbelievably large tumor? It's all there for viewing on a free medical app called Figure 1. Its software lets hundreds of thousands of medical professionals post clinical photos, confer on diagnoses, and show their own innovative work. The site has more than 100 million archived photos, all sent in by users, most of them physicians.

A free app for sharing photos of medical curiosities, diagnostic evidence in puzzling cases, or illustrations that show successful procedures has grown into a global archive.

Named “Figure 1” and available at https://figure1.com the app is frequently described as an Instagram for doctors. The site also has a feature that mimics radiological scans by letting users take and post 200 frames of an image.

The company says that 92% of its registered users are health-care professionals, a third of them physicians and medical students.Lay people can also register and see the photos on the site.

To post photos and interact with other health professionals, users have to submit information that Figure 1 can use to verify that they are medically licensed or students in a medical field.

Other restrictions are that no patient photo can be posted unless all patient-identifiers—including faces and tattoos—are obscured. The site will also instantly take down any photo if a site user believes the patient can be identified. Figure 1 has automatic face-blocking software and a manual block feature for users to obscure any other potential clues to who the patient is.

The Toronto, Canada company was founded in May 2013 by Joshua Landy, MD, an internist and critical care medicine specialist. The company has since found backers in New York who provided $4 million in startup funds, bringing the venture’s total funding to $6 million.

Since its debut, Figure 1 has attracted hundreds of thousands of users, and over 100 million photos have been posted.

Physicians often post photos with a "believe-it-or-not" quality, such as a xray of a patient whose foot was impaled after tripping on a rabbit cage. More often, the photos are more mundane, such as a distinctive rash that the poster could not identify.

In some cases the app has enabled physicians to diagnose a case that had them stumped, by asking other users what they thought a photo showed. In others, physicians have posted photos of new procedures they devised.

Still other users are using photos to query their own trainees on how to interpret a photo or scan, asking them what the next step in diagnosis or treatment should be.

In published interviews, company executives have said that they have yet to figure out what their business model will be.

Under consideration are financial partnerships with medical publishing companies, hospitals and educational institutions.