A Medical Social Network Plans To Use AI To Save Lives
Figure 1, a social platform for doctors, will use its latest round of funding to develop an artificial intelligence feature for case comparisons
Social media took the world by storm during the early part of this millennium. It started with Six Degrees, MySpace and Flickr and evolved to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There are social networks for just about every interest and profession.
Social media platforms often get a bad rap for being colossal time wasters, but there’s also plenty of value for promoting businesses, spreading good causes, keeping in contact with loved ones and more.
A few years ago, a social media network for doctors was developed to help them diagnose patients. Figure 1 has gained more than one million health professional users in the four years it’s been available, and the company has just finished another round of funding that brings their earnings to more than $23 million.
Using this exclusively medical platform, physicians can share anonymous information about electrocardiograms, X-rays, symptoms and other conditions of their patients in order to get feedback on a diagnosis. Every photo and post is carefully screened by medical officers to make sure any personal information that goes against HIPAA regulations is removed before being published on the network.
“They can learn in real time from other people experiencing and seeing cases,” Dr. Joshua Landy, a practicing physician and co-founder of Figure 1, said. “If you’re seeing a case, you can take a picture of it, you can describe it and ask for help, and you can even page a specialist.”
Figure 1 recently finished another funding round led by Kensington Capital Partners, in which they raised more than $10 million. Executives say they want to use this funding to expand their artificial intelligence integration.
“With this new investment, Figure 1 will expand our knowledge network, adding to the millions of healthcare professionals who help each other provide better care,” the company wrote in a blog post. “We’ll build on our case intelligence, finding new ways to extract value from the tens of thousands of real medical cases in our library. And we’ll continue to do this via a free platform, available to every healthcare professional, at any time of day and no matter where they practice.”
One of the first items of business is to include a feature that would turn photos of electrocardiograms, which monitor the activity and health of the heart, into digital data.
There will still be the option for other physicians to offer their thoughts on the image, but the data will provide information that can lead doctors to make more accurate diagnoses. Since electrocardiograms are useful for spotting heart disease risks, heart attacks and other cardiac issues, getting data-based information in a matter of minutes could make all the difference to patients’ lives.
Landy believes that this digital data will be extremely useful simply because the readings of cardiograms are fairly stereotypical. “They are almost perfect fodder for computer vision and machine learning,” Landy told Fast Company. “They’re self-similar, they’re stereotypic, they’re immediately recognizable by an algorithm.”
The company plans to reveal more of its potentially life-saving future innovations at the International Congress on Electrocardiology in Portland at the end of June. If the AI software they present is as effective as they claim it will be, this could be a game-changer for physicians dealing with heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the world.
AI data for electrocardiology is just one step for Figure 1’s innovation plans. Ultimately, they’re working on an entire software package that will provide totally actionable tools for physicians of every specialty.
Gregory Levey, CEO of Figure 1, said in a statement that the company hopes to continue fundraising and use the money for further advancements that make the lives of medical professionals and their patients easier.
“Every morning we wake up with the goal of democratizing medical knowledge in order to help save lives,” Levey said. “We are thrilled to be partnering with investors who understand why we come to work. Using these resources, the coming years will see Figure 1 integrate new technologies in order to completely transform itself—bolstering the already astounding capabilities of the network. We are just getting started.”
Landy and Levey both hinted at future applications of a software that can categorize stereotypical results. Things like stitching a wound, preventing infection, handling dermatological issues and other routine procedures could easily be standardized through this technology.
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Evan is the co-founder and CEO of Snapchat, a platform for people to maintain the spontaneity of social messaging without having to worry about managing a persistent and constant online identity. Released in 2011, the app lets users take photos, record short videos, add text and drawings and send them to a controlled list of recipients. The content is permanently deleted after being viewed. According to Snapchat, in May 2014 the app's users were sending 700 million photos and videos per day, while Snapchat Stories content was viewed 500 million times per day. Prior to founding Snapchat, Evan worked as a software developer at Intuit and attended Stanford University.