Figure 1 is Canada's response to crowdsourcing diseases with social media
The Canadian startup Figure 1 is putting specialists at a doctor’s fingertips in minutes rather than hours and is quickly becoming a growing hit.
Dubbed as the “Instagram for Doctors,” the app allows doctors around the world to upload anonymous photos of their most compelling cases with the intent of trading information and asking for advice. From X-rays to scans to charts, the platform allows for instant access to clinical information from hospitals and medical centers around the world.
As reported by our sister publication Healthcare Global, the app, developed and co-founded by Dr. Joshua Landy (a practicing intensive care physician at Scarborough Hospital in Toronto), opportunely gives doctors the ability to share and discuss diverse medical conditions.
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It can currently be accessed in more than 100 countries and can be downloaded for free on the App Store and Google Play.
“Medicine has always used asynchronous communications such as pagers or phones,” Landy told The Guardian. “Now we want to help people share images, enabling more eyes on more cases, but with privacy and learning in mind.”
Figure 1 is the latest app in a wave of medically-focused tech advances that are changing the doctor-patient relationship. Landy’s goal is to help democratize medical knowledge.
“I want that knowledge to be everywhere in the world where there is Internet signal,” Landy told the Huffington Post, “because the knowledge of specialists shouldn’t be beyond the reach of the world’s medical community.”
Putting patients first
Patient privacy is a priority, and Figure 1 kept that value in mind when designing the app. Uploading images to the platform isn’t simple, as the uploader is required to follow strict guidelines on what is and isn’t permitted and must submit credentials for approval.
Any identifying details related to patients must be removed prior to posting, and a number of intuitive in-app tools allow users to easily do this. An automatic face-blocking feature detects faces in an image and blocks them, while a manual block feature allows users to block anything else that might identify a patient, such as tattoos.
Once an image is uploaded, Figure 1’s medical officer and team of operators perform a review of the image to verify that all identifying information has been properly removed before it even goes live on the app.
“Once images are uploaded into the stream, comments and answers start appearing within minutes,” said Landy. “But you can also page people for specific queries.”
Verified doctors can be “paged”, which sends them a notification of a query or picture, asking for their expert opinion. The average time for a case to be solved is 30 minutes.
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Responses from the medical community
“My main use for Figure 1 is to teach. I upload radiology cases such as x-rays or CT scans with a question or two, and use the commenting feature to teach people about the specific x-ray signs. The reach of the platform means I can teach across timezones, borders, medical specialities and grades.” — Dr. Vikas Shah, consultant radiologist at University Hospitals Leicester (The Guardian)
"I'm a very visual learner. Most doctors are ... and we like to talk to each other. It's classic medicine, digitized.” — Sheryll Shipes, third-year medical resident of Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial in Texas (CNN)
“Often in medicine we’re required to learn about a broad range of diseases some of which are quite uncommon. Thus the ability for other healthcare professionals to share images of signs of disease in an easily accessible app has been of huge benefit for me. It represents a step forward from classical textbooks.” — Fiachra Maguire, medical student from Trinity College Dublin (TNW)
Dr Peng Wei: Designing the Future of Autonomous Aircraft
Air traffic is expected to double by 2037. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the world will need 37,000+ new passenger and freight aircraft, and more than half a million new pilots—unless we come up with another solution. Right now, a George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science professor, Dr Peng Wei, is starting to research autonomous electric aircraft design.
NASA will fund the research, which will study how to minimise risks for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL). As Airbus states: ‘Autonomous technologies also have the potential to improve air traffic management, enhance sustainability performance and further improve aircraft safety’.
Who is Dr Wei?
An assistant professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Dr Wei has researched aircraft control, optimisation, and AI and ML applications in aviation. Over the next three years, he’ll lead the US$2.5mn NASA grant project in collaboration with researchers from Vanderbilt, the University of Texas at Austin, and MIT’s Lincoln Lab.
Why is His Research Important?
Even though the wide adoption of self-piloting cars, much less aircraft, is still far down the road, technologies that Dr Wei and his colleagues are researching will form the commercial transport of the future. But aviation manufacturers, in order to produce autonomous aircraft, will have to meet extremely high safety standards.
‘The key challenge for self-piloting capabilities is how the system reacts to unforeseen events’, said Arne Stoschek, Wayfinder Project Executive at Acubed. ‘That’s the big jump from automated to autonomous’. In the air, AI-piloted aircraft will have to manoeuvre around adverse weather conditions, such as wind and storms, and other high-altitude risks, such as GPS hacking, cyberattacks, and aircraft degradation. And the stakes are high.
‘If a machine learning algorithm makes a mistake in Facebook, TikTok, Netflix —that doesn't matter too much because I was just recommended a video or movie I don't like’, Dr Wei said. ‘But if a machine learning algorithm mistake happens in a safety-critical application, such as aviation or in autonomous driving, people may have accidents. There may be fatal results’.
What Are His Other Projects?
In addition to the new NASA research, Dr Wei has been awarded three other grants to pursue AI-piloted aircraft:
- A 2-year grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in conjunction with West Virginia University and Honeywell Aerospace to investigate “learning-based” aviation systems
- A six-month SBIR Phase I NASA award with Intelligent Automation to mitigate airspace congestion at vertiports—the electric craft version of airports.
- A 1-year collaborative grant with the University of Virginia and George Mason University from the Virginia Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) to develop anti-cyber attack technologies and aviation video systems
Research like NASA and Dr Wei’s three-year programme will help improve how AI reacts and adapts to challenging air conditions. In coming years, autonomous aircraft will likely take off slowly, starting with small package delivery, then upgraded drones, and finally commercialised aircraft. But congestion issues will worsen until autonomous aircraft are the best alternative.
According to BBC Future, by 2030, commuters will spend nearly 100 hours a year in Los Angeles and Moscow traffic jams, and 43 cities will be home to more than 10 million people. The final verdict? Bring on the AI-operated transit.