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A word of warning: the photographs found on the mobile application Figure 1 may make your stomach turn. They include—and you should skip to the next paragraph if descriptions of medical injuries will nauseate you—a swollen bloody thumb, recently reconstructed after a fireworks injury; a 17 year-old’s foot charred black by an electrical burn; and a worm pulled from a patient’s anus. Yes, really.
This is the stuff that medical professionals don’t see everyday, which is exactly why they’re flocking to this photo-sharing app. Though tiny, it has proven extremely popular since it launched two years ago. The app now counts an audience of 125,000, and its parent company, which shares its name, estimates that 15% of medical students in the United States use it. Which may be one reason why investors are interested: on August 6, the Toronto-based startup will announce that it raised $4 million in funding led by Union Square Ventures.
Figure 1 essentially offers a visual shorthand for healthcare professionals looking to compare notes. In my opening essay for Fortune‘s The Future of the Image series, I made the case for the rise of visual literacy as people increasingly substitute photos for text. This trend will have a huge impact on business. As pictures replace words, tools that allow professionals to take and compare photos have an increasingly important role to play in the enterprise.
Already, a host of software applications are emerging to support this. Architizer invites architects to uplioad and share projects, for example. FoKo offers a secure, private enterprise photo-sharing app designed for companies and counts Whole Foods as a customer.
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