Figure1 is a free iOS app (Android to come) debuting today at the Apple app store that hopes to be a “crowdsourced medical image library that healthcare professionals can use to share, rank, and discuss images.” This editor sat down with Annie Williams and Gregory Levey of MovableScience, the company putting out Figure1, back at TEDMED and reviewed a pre-release version of the app. In comparison to the MobileCT app we wrote about last week, this app is more focused on education and information dissemination rather than diagnosis. It is also not limited to radiology, since it is able to share images from the iPhone camera as well.
In an effort to drive home the privacy concerns of an app that is made to share patient images, immediately after making an account you get a Terms Of Service that is very privacy conscious. I was told that there was a lot of effort put into thinking of ways to protect physicians who use it, and so make it easier to grow the picture sharing community. To help determine the credibility of the description of the image there are different categories of users. When making an account physicians can present their credentials to the company to be identified as an MD user, giving certain posting and tagging privileges.
The app is optimized for the iPhone, but an iPad will work in the the 2X mode. The app uses the iPhone or iPad camera to take an image, lets you crop, annotate, or anonymize the image, and then uploads it to the secure Figure1 database. One of the most secure features of the password controlled app is that the edited images are not stored on the device itself. So if the iOS device is lost the images are not out in the wild and there’s no need to worry about a potential HIPAA violation from the images themselves. Emails and personal photos on the internal storage are another story.
Using the hashtags or image descriptions of existing images in the database users can search for diagnoses or notable findings. If no images that match the search terms exist in the database the app does an internet image search of curated sites to find an appropriate image. The app also tries to learn what the user usually searches for and suggests searches from previous tags and a medical dictionary database. Once an image is found comments can be made and further tags can be added that the rest of the Figure1 community can see. Users can also note “favorite” images to keep them accessible for ready reference.
The version of the app I reviewed was unable to share, but the company reps said the launch version would have two types of sharing. Public sharing with the entire Figure1 user base and private sharing that would work by sharing private images among individual or several users selected from your contact library, such as your study group or hospital colleagues. Once an image is uploaded to be shared, it is reviewed for appropriateness, but still becomes public immediately, and so at the moment it relies on the honesty of the user to prevent the “What is the rash in my private area?” postings, though the review process I was shown looks like it could delete offensive images pretty quickly.
Overall, the app seems most appropriate for medical educational environments or among physicians and healthcare providers who already tend to have their phone on them when they encounter interesting images or visual findings. When combined with the tools in the Smartphone Physical collection it might make for a diverse collection of medical images and findings.
Here’s a quick demo of Figure1:
Product page: Figure1…
Disclosure: Author is friends with one of the founders of Moveable Science, the company behind the app.