The Instagram-for-doctors is gross, scary, graphic – and it could save your life


The world’s grossest social network is here – and it might also be the most helpful, as it’s more or less a crowdsourced Internet version of Dr. House, diagnosing rare diseases left and right.

Figure1, a new iOS app from Movable Science that lets medical professionals upload anonymized pictures of symptoms and treatments, already showcases some gag-inducing stuff. But even though scrolling through the app will bombard you with diseased limbs instead of the artfully filtered sunsets of Instagram, it may end up an extremely valuable medical resource. Since it launched this month, hundreds of users have logged on to share information with fellow medical professionals. Now doctors, nurses, and other caregivers have a way to reach out and consult with their peers instantaneously. The idea is that these users could find someone treating a patient with similar symptoms, and engage in meaningful dialogue about the best treatments. Even if doctors aren’t able to glean information about the case they’re sharing from other users, at the very least they will contribute an image to the Figure1 community that may become useful down the line.

Annie Williams, the Movable Science communications coordinator, says that creating a privacy policy was the most difficult part of launching the app. “We wanted to keep Figure1 simple and easy to use, while at the same time being extremely diligent in protecting patients’ privacy. So working out exactly how to do that was our biggest challenge. Once we achieved that, we were confident that healthcare professionals would be receptive to Figure 1,” she explains. And patients don’t need to worry. “We’ve been very careful to keep patient privacy at the forefront. We only accept images that have had identifying details removed, so a patient’s face, name or anything identifying won’t be included in the app. Still, if a patient changes their mind about a photo, they can inform the healthcare professional, who can easily delete the image.”

Already, all sorts of medical professionals are signing up and creating accounts. Williams said they’re interested in medical professionals of all stripes. “We’re open to any healthcare professional who finds Figure 1 useful. So far, we’re seeing people from all over healthcare download the app – from optometrists, to dentists, medical students, and paramedics.” 

What about images of patients who are under 18? “This sort of thing is very jurisdiction dependent,” Williams says. “And we recommend users check the regulations that govern them, but we do provide an easy to use in-app consent form that enables a patient’s representative to give consent.”

Of course, this is wading into potentially tricky territory, since someone could always forge in-app consent. Figure1 may run into problems if they continue to expand and people who aren’t medical professionals start to put up doctored or inappropriate photos. These are some of the same issues any social app, especially an image-based one, runs into (right, Snapchat?) – however, Figure1’s more professional userbase and niche purposes could keep it safer (or at least safer) from this type of use. The network’s thorough vetting system may also be able to provide invaluable and easily accessible references to the medical community while keeping it clear of negative use. While anyone is welcome to peruse the app, it will likely find its most significant use within industry professionals. 

Figure1 is on the right track right now, and it may expand into the U.K. soon. So next time you’re at the doctor and you get asked to pose your wounded knee for a snapshot, you could be contributing to a digital database that may serve as a vital medical reference cornerstone for generations of life saving professionals. 


Lack of regulation means wearables aren’t held accountable for health claims

As fitness trackers become more like health monitors, some physicians are concerned they can lead to over-diagnosis of non-existent problems. It’s already happening with wearable baby monitors.

Alphabet’s health watch monitors your heart health, is approved by the FDA

A health monitoring watch being developed by Alphabet, Google's parent company, has received clearance from the FDA as a medical device. This means that the device has been found to be safe and can legally be sold in the U.S.
Emerging Tech

Scientists successfully grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish

Researchers have managed to grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish for the first time, and even to successfully implant them into live mice. The results could be a game-changer for diabetes.

Omron HeartGuide brings blood pressure monitoring to your wrist

High blood pressure leads to heart attacks, strokes, and many other health problems, so it's important to keep an eye on. Omron's HeartGuide is a fitness tracking watch that can also monitor your blood pressure from your wrist.
Social Media

Invite your friends — Facebook Events can now be shared to Stories

Facebook is testing a way to make plans with friends to attend an event -- through Stories. By sharing an event in Facebook Stories, users can message other friends interested in the event to make plans to attend together.
Social Media

A quick swipe will soon let you keep bingeing YouTube on mobile devices

The YouTube mobile app has a new, faster way to browse: Swiping. Once the update rolls out, users can swipe to go to the next (or previous) video in the recommended list, even while viewing in full screen.
Social Media

Twitter extends its new timeline feature to Android users

Twitter users with an Android device can now quickly switch between an algorithm-generated timeline and one that shows the most recent tweets first. The new feature landed for iPhone users last month.

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Social Media

YouTube to crack down on dangerous stunts like the ‘Bird Box’ challenge

YouTube already bans content showing dangerous activities, but new rules published by the site go into greater detail regarding potentially harmful challenges and pranks, including certain blindfold- or laundry detergent-based stunts.
Social Media

Nearly 75 percent of U.S. users don’t realize Facebook tracks their interests

Did you know Facebook tracks your interests, including political and multicultural affiliations? According to a recent Pew study, 74 percent of adult users in the U.S. have no idea Facebook keeps a running list of your interests.

It’s back! Here’s how to switch to Twitter’s reverse chronological feed

Twitter has finally brought back the reverse chronological feed, allowing you to see your feed based on the newest tweets, rather than using Twitter's algorithm that shows what it thinks you want to see. It's easy to switch.
Social Media

Nearly a million Facebook users followed these fake Russian accounts

Facebook purged two separate groups behind more than 500 fake accounts with Russian ties. One group had ties to Russian news agency Sputnik, while the other had behavior similar to the Internet Research Agency's midterm actions.
Social Media

Twitter suffers privacy scare as bug reveals tweets of protected accounts

If you set your Twitter account to private and you have an Android device, you'd better check your settings now. Twitter says it's just fixed a four-year-old bug that flipped the privacy switch to make the account public.

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.