Researchers turn an iPhone into an otoscope

Sept. 28, 2012
A pediatric medical device being developed at Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA, USA) and Emory University (Atlanta, GA, USA) could make life easier for parents with children suffering from an ear infection.

A pediatric medical device being developed atGeorgia Tech (Atlanta, GA, USA) and Emory University (Atlanta, GA, USA) could make life easier for parents with children suffering from an ear infection.

The researchers' so-called Remotoscope is a clip-on attachment and software app that turns an iPhone into an otoscope, a medical device which is used by pediatricians to look into the ears to diagnose infection.

With Remotoscope, parents would be able to take a picture or video of their child’s eardrum using the iPhone and send the images digitally to a physician for diagnostic review.

Wilbur Lam, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, along with his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA, USA) is developing the device, and has plans to commercialize it.

Remotoscope's clip-on attachment uses the iPhone's camera and flash as the light source as well as a custom software app to provide magnification and record data to the phone. The iPhone’s data transmission capabilities send images and video to a doctor's inbox or to a patient's electronic medical record.

The device has the potential to save money for both families and healthcare systems, Lam says. Ear infections, or otitis media, affect 75 percent of children by age six, making it the most common diagnosis for preschoolers. They result in more than 15m office visits per year in the United States and thousands of prescriptions for antibiotics, which are sometimes not needed.

A clinical trial for the Remotoscope is currently under way to see if the device can obtain images of the same diagnostic quality as traditional otoscopes. The Food and Drug Administration, through the Atlanta Pediatric Device Consortium, is partially funding the trial.

More information on the Remotoscope can be found here.

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-- Dave Wilson, Senior Editor,Vision Systems Design

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