Georgia Tech and Emory University have developed and are testing a new pediatric medical device. Currently, pediatricians diagnose ear infections using the standard otoscope to examine the eardrum. With the Remotoscope device, parents will be able to take a picture or video of their child’s eardrum using their iPhone and send the images digitally to a physician for diagnostic review.
Wilbur Lan Assistant Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University along with colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley developed the device with plans to commercialize it.
Remotoscope’s clip-on attachment uses the iPhone’s camera and flash as the light source. It also relies on a custom software app that provides automatic zoom and crop, image preview, and auto calibration. The iPhone’s data transmission capabilities seamlessly send images and video to a doctor’s inbox or to the patient’s EMR.
According to Dr. Lam, “The device can save money for families and healthcare systems”. Today, there are more than 15 million office visits for people with ear infections per year in the U.S that results in thousands of prescriptions for antibiotics being prescribed which are not always needed.
At the initial visit with a patient, physicians say it is difficult to differentiate between ear infections caused by viruses, which resolve on their own, and those infections caused by bacteria which require antibiotics.
“As pediatricians will likely only see the child once, they often err on the side of giving antibiotics for viral infections rather than risk not giving antibiotics for a bacterial infection, which can lead to complications,” Dr Lam said. “So, we are currently over-treating ear infections with antibiotics and consequently causing antibiotic resistance.”
Lam said, “Remotoscope may be able to change the physicians’ prescription patterns for antibiotics for ear infections. Receiving serial images of a child’s ear over several days via the Remotoscope would enable the physicians to wait and see if a child’s infection improves or whether antibiotics are warranted.
A clinical trial for the Remotoscope is underway at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to see if the device can obtain images of the same diagnostic quality as a physician sees with a traditional otoscope. The FDA through the Atlanta Pediatric Device consortium is partially funding the clinical trial.
Once a family agrees to be in the trial and the child has seen the emergency room doctor, a video is taken of the child’s ear with the Remotoscope and a traditional otoscope is linked to a computer. Next, physicians review the quality of the samples, make a diagnosis from the Remotoscope video, and see if it matches the original diagnosis by the ER doctor. The research team hopes to publish the trial’s results by the end of the year.
In another research project, the University of Washington, UW Medicine, and Seattle Children’s Hospital has a new tool that enables people to monitor their lung function at home or on the go simply by blowing into their smart phones.
“There’s a big need to make testing cheaper and more convenient to measure lung function,” said lead researcher Shwetak Patel, a UW Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering. “Other people have been working on attachments for the mobile phone that you can blow into, but the researchers wanted to figure out how to do it with the microphone that is already there.”
Researchers have tested the system on 52 mostly healthy volunteers using an iPhone 4S smart phone and its built-in microphone. A grant from the Coulter Foundation will fund more clinical testing with patients of varying ages and lung health, and help the team seek FDA approval. The researchers are working with the UWs Center for Commercialization to bring the technology to market.