Hello, Is this an Ear Infection?

Diagnose from home with your iPhone

By Liz Klipp

Two researchers holding Remotoscope device

Scope it out: Remotoscope developer Wilbur Lam with fellow researcher Kathryn Rappaport 13M.

Courtesy Georgia Tech

A new pediatric medical device being developed by Georgia Tech and Emory could make life easier for every parent who has rushed to the doctor with a child screaming from an ear infection.

Soon, parents may be able to skip the doctor’s visit and receive a diagnosis without leaving home by using Remotoscope, a clip-on attachment and software app that turns an iPhone into an otoscope.

Pediatricians currently diagnose ear infections using the standard otoscope to examine the eardrum. 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, along with colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, is developing the device, with plans to commercialize it.

“Ultimately we think parents could receive a diagnosis at home and forgo the late-night trips to the emergency room,” says Lam, who is also a physician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory’s School of Medicine. “It’s known that kids who get ear infections early in life are at risk for recurrent ear infections. It can be a big deal and really affect families’ quality of life.”

The device has the potential to save money for both families and health care systems, Lam says. Ear infection, or otitis media, is the most common diagnosis for preschoolers, resulting in more than fifteen million office visits per year in the US and thousands of prescriptions for antibiotics, which are not always 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 what a physician sees with a traditional otoscope. The Food and Drug Administration is partially funding the trial through the Atlanta Pediatric Device Consortium, a partnership among Georgia Tech, Children’s, and Emory.

Lam and a colleague, Erik Douglas, started the Remotoscope project while doctoral students at Berkeley. The two researchers went on to create the startup CellScope, which aims to commercialize Remotoscope once clinical studies are complete and the device has FDA approval.

Email the editor