Figure 1 grows in new directions: surveying doctors

joshua-landyA Canadian smartphone app that started out as a crowdsourcing tool for healthcare professionals is now also gathering important insight from doctors and nurses on hot-button topics like medical marijuana and the anti-vaccination movement. Figure 1, often described as “Instagram for doctors,” boasts more than 1 million users who share medical images. For the past several months, Figure 1 has been surveying its users on how they approach a wide range of healthcare issues in their daily practice.

The app allows users to share images of the baffling and difficult cases they encounter every day, and solicit advice and diagnostic opinions from other medical professionals. About 70 per cent of them are in North America.

The most recent survey, conducted in mid-August, asked more than 1,100 healthcare professionals how they talk to parents who resist vaccinating their children.

The survey found that the majority of doctors and nurses approached the issue by discussing the risk of severe illness associated with forgoing vaccines. They referred the parents to evidence-based studies that show the effectiveness of immunization and explained the concept of “herd immunity,” which develops in populations with high vaccination rates for contagious diseases like measles, mumps and rubella.

Based on the survey answers, Figure 1 developed a guide for its users on how to talk to “vaccine-resistant” parents. The guide instructs healthcare professionals to listen to the parents’ concerns without judgment before providing medical advice.

It also encourages physicians, nurses and medical students to read up on common concerns about vaccines and be ready to discuss them, with scientific evidence and relevant statistic at hand.

“Show what polio, measles and diphtheria can do to a child,” the guide says.

If all that fails, the guide encourages physicians and nurses to negotiate with parents, by discussing the possibility of a modified immunization schedule or a different form of vaccine, while underlining the consequences of such a decision.

The final piece of advice is to “keep talking” to parents who are still not convinced they should vaccinate their children.

“An ongoing conversation is better than a closed door,” the guide says.

Dr. Joshua Landy (pictured), a critical-care physician in Toronto who co-founded Figure 1, said that the survey was very careful to ask users what they do in cases when a parent refuses to vaccinate their child, rather than what they think about the parent’s stance.

“I was struck by the empathy that a lot of clinicians expressed towards making strides to understand and appreciate a patient’s perspective…even when they disagree with it,” Landy told

Landy said Figure 1 has also surveyed its users on how they approach other controversial topics, such as medical marijuana or junior doctor strikes in the U.K.

The survey results, just like the thousands of medical cases discussed on Figure 1 every day, will help further educate and inform members of the medical community, Landy said.

Source: CTV News