When social goes medical

How this Instagram-for-doctors is helping the ebola fight

Doctors without Borders, the esteemed non-profit that sends medics into developing countries, has found an unlikely ally in the war against ebola. It’s using Figure 1, a social network that bills itself as the “Instagram for doctors,” to recruit physicians to the cause. Figure 1 is giving Doctors without Borders free advertising in order to raise awareness of the mounting ebola crisis and prod potential volunteers to help in whatever way they can.

A nurse helps an ebola patient in Doctors without Borders' Figure 1 ad
A nurse helps an ebola patient in Doctors without Borders’ Figure 1 ad

The app pinned this picture of a nurse in New Guinea to the top of its feed, putting it front and center of its users. “It got a crazy amount of attention, over 15,000 views in 24 hours, which for us is quite good,” Figure 1 co-founder Dr. Greg Levy said. “All kinds of favorites and comments.”

Figure 1 was started to make it easy for doctors to educate themselves about new illnesses, procedures, and technology. Doctors and med students peruse a feed of injury and ailment images uploaded by other doctors, with all patient identifying features blurred.

“We had studied workflow behaviors of young physicians, keeping track of cases by taking pictures with their phones and sharing with their colleagues,” Figure 1 co-founder Dr. Josh Landy said. “We took a workflow that already existed and gave them away to have it searchable and protect patient privacy.”

Social networking, when developed for a particular profession, can sometimes create substantial value for their users. And as the Figure 1 – Doctors without Borders partnership shows, it can also create an unparalleled opportunity to reach a wide swath of such professionals.

As Figure 1’s user base grows, so does its power to reach medical professionals. Figure 1 has 150,000 doctors on the app, so it still has a ways to go. There aren’t a ton of up-to-date numbers on how many doctors are in the U.S., but the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics puts it at roughly 700,000.

The initial positive reaction to the Figure 1 ebola ad convinced Doctors without Borders to expand its partnership. The app is now helping it advertise new types of health techniques in Papa New Guinea. To combat tuberculosis, drones are bringing specimens from remote rural areas to the nearest hospitals for testing. Showing that activity to doctors in the U.S. keeps them abreast of the latest technology and — in theory — piques their interest in joining Doctors without Borders.

The drones that send TB specimen from rural areas in Papa New Guinea
The drones that send TB specimen from rural areas in Papa New Guinea

One Response to “How this Instagram-for-doctors is helping the ebola fight”