Social media is rarely cited as a technological resource for medical professionals. However, apps like Figure 1 are changing that in a big way.
The value of technology to the world of medicine is indisputable, but rarely do we consider social media or crowd sourcing in that assessment. Dr. Josh Landy, a Canadian critical care specialist, is aiming to change all that through his app, Figure 1, which connects a global community of medical practitioners through images.
Many Hands Make Short Work
Figure 1, known as the “Instagram for doctors,” allows medical professionals to post pictures of interesting and rare cases for others to view, help diagnose, and study. Dr. Landy came up with the idea after realizing how frequently doctors share photos over text in order to prepare for a case or to solicit help.
As reported by Business Insider, Dr. Landy wanted to grow that natural network into a global community. Thus, Figure 1 was born.
Two years later, the app is available in 19 countries and has over 150,000 users. It’s been particularly well received among medical students, whom Landy has observed regularly checking in for a second opinion. According to CNN, 30% of all medical students use the app!
And the effects have been profound: conditions that may be be uncommon in the U.S., but are known to places like Latin America or Southeast Asia, can now quickly be investigated and, sometimes, understood..
To protect patients’ identities, images must first be edited to exclude any identifying features, like the face, tattoos, or noticeable scars. The patient must also sign a consent form prior to his or her image being published. The postings include any manner of conditions, and also include the techniques the doctor employed to treat them.
Is it Valuable?
The immense benefit social media provides to medicine, while clearly apparent, has only started to be discussed recently within the medical community — but they’ve been undoubtedly receptive.
A recent paper in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, entitled, “A New Dimension of Health Care: Systematic Review of the Uses, Benefits, and Limitations of Social Media for Health Communication,” discusses six “overarching benefits” of social media:
1. Increased interactions with other doctors
2. More available, shared, and tailored information
3. Increased accessibility to health information
4. Peer/social/emotional support
5. Public health surveillance
6. Potential to influence healthcare policies
Similarly, “Social Media as a Tool in Medicine,” a paper published in the American Heart Association Journals, found that nearly 25% of people with a chronic condition had sought online interaction with others who shared the condition.
They also discovered that 14% to 18% of pediatric trainees had used the internet to find information about a patient. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is the value social media brings to remote care, or telemedicine, in treating distant, hard-to-reach, or impoverished communities.
As social media’s use in medicine gains wider acceptance, more and more technologies are becoming available. The Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality recently created the electronic Preventive Services Selector, or ePSS, an app that allows clinicians to search a massive database for services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Similarly, UpToDate is a private subscription service that provides evidence-based information to practitioners who need to make tricky treatment decisions. And Free Open Access Meducation, or FOAM, is a collection of resources to which anyone can add information and expertise.
Meanwhile, SingleCare is exploring how technology can change the way patients pay for treatment. It’s a platform that connects patients to affordable healthcare, opening the door to an expansive network of doctors and specialists at discounted prices, and patients only pay for the treatment they receive.
Whether or not you have insurance, SingleCare saves you time and money, showing off the true power of merging modern medicine and technology.
(Main image credit: Doctors 2.0 & You/flickr)