Canadian physicians and developers are taking on the controversial world of medical apps.
Since the end of May, two apps in particular have attracted the attention of the health-care community.
Toronto-area intensive care doctor Joshua Landy is the medical mind behind a new Figure 1 app that was released on May 28. Landy said Figure 1 fills a need, allowing doctors to immediately post, search and comment on photographs while on their iPhones or tablets, much like the popular Instagram app. Limited to verified doctors, it blacks out a patient's distinguishing features and allows physicians to share cases with their colleagues.
Next month, a group of Halifax-based entrepreneurs will launch the social media platform TheRounds that allows doctors to participate in chats from their handheld devices, sharing expertise in a way that mimics the Grand Rounds in hospitals where doctors gather to discuss cases.
But these virtual spaces come with risks, and the health-care industry has historically been cautious about experimentation that can tamper with medical ethics.
The hesitation can be partially linked to a fear of failure in an industry particularly sensitive to mistakes. With doctors bound to vows of confidentiality and discretion, the appropriate way of integrating social media’s culture of sharing is not always obvious.
Organizations like the Canadian Medical Association and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario have tried to address the uncertainty. Though many hospitals and clinics have policies, the CMA and CPSO have provided guidelines that attempt to find a place for medical ethics in the grey zone that is social media.
"Social media can help support quality patient care, but it also has risks," says Dan Faulkner, the deputy registrar at CPSO. "The internet is public, so doctors do need to be somewhat reflective on what they're posting on the internet."
Through online discussions as well as periodic "meet-ups" health-care professionals come together to talk about social media's potential and pitfalls. The most recent event, held on June 17 in Toronto, was a panel discussion on failure, something the speakers agreed the Canadian health-care industry is too afraid of.
Push from patients
But changes are taking place and Silver said part of that push is coming from patients themselves.
"I think my patients appreciate the fact that we're pretty up to date here," he said. "I haven't had any push-back."
Silver said he always asks permission to take a patient's photo and feels confident in the privacy features integrated into the apps he uses.