Feature: Figure1 medical app

After seeing that students were taking pictures of medical cases as a way of learning, Dr Joshua Landy wanted to find a way to save the information so it could be used later for educating others but put the patient’s privacy first.

Figure1 allows medical professionals to share photographs of medical conditions for educational and diagnostic purposes. The app has built in detection to block out the patients’ face and prompts professionals to make sure they have gained consent and removed any recognisable features such as tattoos or scars and at the RSM’s medical innovations 2015 summit, Dr Landy announced a new feature of the app called Paging. Please see below for Dr Landy’s answers to my questions on figure1.

What were your main priorities/aims for the app when developing Figure1?

Knowing that healthcare professionals have busy schedules and many competing priorities, we wanted to release something that fits into their existing workflow. We didn’t want to add work, but instead provide a tool that was simple and quick to use, and complemented what they were already doing.

It was also important to us to create an inclusive community where all healthcare professionals were given an equal voice.

How much research did you do on other mobile and online technology for medical education before Figure1?

I did a fair bit. In 2012, I was a visiting scholar at Stanford University researching online approaches to medical education, which resulted in several articles describing new trends in the field. Our group also conducted a survey of mobile device use in medical students and residents. We found that 60 percent of our physicians were exchanging patient care-related photos and text messages, and 45 percent acknowledged using their device “as a medical reference, textbook, or as a patient care related study aid.”

How do you see Figure1 influencing medical education?

I’m really excited about the prospect of Figure 1 being an important part of students’ medical training. On Figure 1, there’s a strong community of teachers who are receptive to students and willing to answer questions in order to help them learn. Outside of the app itself, we hear about professors and residents who use Figure 1 in class or at the hospital to show real-world presentations of illnesses to students. In the UK, 15 percent of medical students are already using Figure 1. In the US, I think that stat is already at 40%. I’m excited to see those numbers continue to grow over time.

What has been the biggest challenge so far with Figure1?

The biggest challenge has actually been deciding what to focus on and when. We’re doing something that hasn’t been done before, so we’re making a lot of decisions as we go. When I look back, I think we’ve done well so far, but there have definitely been tough decisions along the way – including opportunities that we had to pass on because we didn’t have the bandwidth to focus on them.

Paging is a great new feature of the app, how do you currently and will make sure correct advice and information is given about a condition?

Paging connects healthcare professionals with verified specialists to give fast feedback on a case. To ensure the correct people are being paged, we first verify the credentials of every healthcare professional who is paged. This means our team has actually emailed with them and checked their information in a database to ensure they are licensed. But beyond that, what helps ensure the best information floats to the top is the size of the network. That’s why crowdsourcing is such an amazing thing. People on the network are given the opportunity to upvote or downvote comments to reflect whether they think they’re correct, and they’re also able to add their own opinion and disagree with someone. A Figure 1 post gets many different responses, but at the end of the day, these responses are all based on a small slice of the information. It’s up to the healthcare professional that posted the case to investigate all options and move forward with what makes sense based on the full case history. Once the healthcare professional who posted the case moves forward with treatment, they can actually add or mark an accepted answer to show what they did and why.

Where do you see the future for Figure1 and do you think it would ever develop into a ‘conference’ technique between consultants and patients?

At the moment, we’re very focused on reaching every healthcare professional in the world with Figure 1. We’ve now expanded to more than 100 countries, but there’s still work to be done on this front – including expansions to most of Africa and Asia. We’re also continually working on refining Figure 1 and making sure it’s the most useful tool it can be. At this moment, these two points are our focus, not connecting patients with healthcare professionals.


The team at figure1 aim to always keep the app free so that there is no deterrence in downloading it and being a user myself, I can say that it is easy to use and very informative. It has exposed me to interesting cases and also has ‘Image of the week’ where it is encouraged to guess the correct diagnosis which is good for building knowledge. I highly recommend it and definitely see a future for technology being a tool in furthering medical education and healthcare in general. Figure1 is rapidly increasing in its number of users and is currently available in North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Europe. I would like to thank Dr Landy and his team very much for answering my questions.