Bioethics Blogs

Figure 1: Global Medical Education and Collaboration in Real Time

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

When I was teaching in medical schools I recall a case where a student was reprimanded for breaking patient confidentiality by uploading a picture of surgery to his Facebook profile. This incident led to educational interventions about the appropriate use of social media in medicine. The short guideline was, “Never upload photos of patients onto the internet.” Now, physicians are encouraged to upload patient pictures through a service called Figure1, which has been described as “Instagram for doctors.”

Figure 1 is part of Medicine 2.0, using online technology to enable collaboration and interaction. Rather than simply reading about a medical condition, a user is able to comment, participate and offer advise.

The images are graphic and shocking. A glance through the Figure1 home page and Facebook page showed a foot covered in black spongy masses, a pink femur in a metal pan riddled with cancer, and a woman’s back covered in mushroom-like keloids. This is definitely not something to peruse while eating lunch.

With Figure1, health care professionals can (and do) upload medical images with commentary. These can be unusual teaching cases—the sort of things that rarely come along. Or they can be genuine requests for help—“does anyone know what this is?” A new feature is called “paging” where you can send questions and images to experts around the world for instant feedback.

The service offers education through an image of the week, name this condition, and interviews with experts. Their ambassador program recruits medical and nursing students to be advocates for the service on their campuses.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.