Have you ever wondered what Instagram would look like if doctors took it over? Figure 1, a photo-sharing application for healthcare professionals, comes close.

Launched in May, this first app by MaRS client Movable Science acts as a medical image library that is crowdsourced and available on mobile phones. The images uploaded range from the dramatic, such as an amputated arm or open heart surgery, to the more mundane, such as a rash, an X-ray or a broken arm. Once an image is uploaded, hashtags and descriptions can be added to ease navigating the app to find certain pictures.

To protect patient privacy, the app has developed a face detection algorithm that blurs out the faces in any uploaded photos. It also provides editing tools that can be used to point out a certain part of the image or to cover up other identifying patient features, like tattoos. The app also includes a consent form that is signed by the patient or his or her legal representative.

Images uploaded onto Figure 1 go through a verification process by licensed physicians to ensure the accuracy of the materials found on the app. Physicians can indicate their desire to become a verified physician, and a member of the Figure 1 team will confirm the status through documentation.

I sat down with Dr. Joshua Landy, the co-founder of Movable Science, to discuss Figure 1 and his overall experience with the application.

What inspired you to develop Figure 1?

As a physician, I practise in critical care and internal medicine. My patients often need to see multiple specialists in a short period of time and their conditions change rapidly. Part of my daily workflow is to keep the team of specialists up to date about our shared patients. Currently, many physicians collect images of interesting or representative cases on their smartphones. The images are often shared with small groups of colleagues. Recognizing the educational benefits of these images, I wanted to collect and distribute them in a privacy-safe way. This way, we are able to harness the thousands of educational assets being collected by individuals every day and make them freely available.

Can you explain your technology and the benefits it offers?

One of the major benefits of Figure 1 is that the app makes it easy to remove identifying details from an image. For example, faces are automatically blocked and the user can easily swipe his or her finger to remove other details. Once identifying details are removed, the image is uploaded into the database, tagged by condition and shared with either a small group of colleagues or the entire Figure 1 community. Overall, I think the biggest benefit of Figure 1 is the breadth of images that have been posted and the medical discussions that spring from these images.

What advice would you give upcoming entrepreneurs?

We’ve just started and we’re still learning ourselves, so I don’t think we’re in a position to give advice. I can say, however, that we’ve found it very helpful to have support from experienced advisors, like those at MaRS.

I’ve had the Figure 1 app on my iPad for about a month now and I find myself browsing it almost every day—and I’m not even a doctor. Maybe one day, given all of the advancements in technology and increased patient access, there will be an app catered toward patient-doctor communication for follow-up and diagnostics!

While I don’t think this app will have filters added to it, healthcare professionals can take advantage of this new way of sharing medical images and download the app today.

Tariq Haddadin

Tariq Haddadin is a Senior Associate with the Business Acceleration Program (BAP) at MaRS. He supports the program which equips Ontario’s innovation entrepreneurs with the skills they need to move successfully into the global marketplace. See more…