Parents of children prone to frequent ear infections know the symptoms all too well. Still, they have to go through the process of sitting in a doctor's office or an emergency waiting room in order to get a prescription for an antibiotic.
Now, a specialized app could let the parents send information remotely to the pediatrician to diagnose the infection and have a prescription called into the pharmacy to remedy the situation.
The "Remotoscope" app developed by researchers at Georgia Tech, Emory University and University of California-Berkeley turns a parent's iPhone into an otoscope with a simple attachment.
The Remotoscope let's parents take a picture or video of their child's eardrum using their phone. The images are sent to the doctor for review. Here's more on the technology from the Emory's press release:
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 seamlessly send images and video to a doctor's inbox or to the patient's electronic medical record.
"Ultimately we think parents could receive a diagnosis at home and forgo the late-night trips to the emergency room," Wilbur Lam, a physician at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and a professor at Emory and Georgia Tech, said in a statement. "It's known that kids who get ear infections early in life are at risk for recurrent ear infections. It can be a very big deal and really affect their families' quality of life."
Watch this video showing how Remotoscope works:
The researchers believe the app could also lead to monetary savings for families and heathcare systems. With parents sending a physician several images over a few consecutive days, doctors can track the symptoms in the ear instead of only seeing it once, potentially prescribing medicine for an infection that's not there or that will resolve itself quickly.
"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," Lam said. "So, we are currently over-treating ear infections with antibiotics and consequently causing antibiotic resistance."
The Remotoscope technology is currently in clinical trial, partially funded by the Food and Drug administration. A student working on the research team said parents who are being recruited to participate in the trial are excited about the app.
This is not the first time we've seen an iPhone used for scientific or medical purposes either. TheBlaze reported last year that scientists were developing ways to use the smartphone in field situations as a microscope and spectrometer.