Can your iPhone diagnose an ear infection?


You use it to talk, text and play games, but could your phone tell you if your child is sick?

Fourteen-month-old Harper Barrett has an ear infection. It's one of the most common reasons kids see their pediatricians, but mom Megan Barrett says it's hard to know when an earache merits a trip to the doctor.

"If you take her in and she doesn't have an ear infection, then, you know, it's a waste of time and money," said Barrett.

The iPhone otoscope may be the answer parents like Barrett have been waiting for. The instrument slides right onto the phone. It contains fiber optic cables that connect with the phone's light, along with a small magnifying glass. Users open the app, push a button, put it up to the ear and record a video clip.

The idea is parents take pictures and video at home, then send it to their doctor, who will tell them if they need to come in. In a clinical trial, researchers found images captured with the iPhone are at least as good as those captured with the standard instrument.

"We are looking to see if the images that we can get from this device are of diagnostic quality," said Kathryn Rappaport, a medical student at Emory University School of Medicine.

Pediatrician Andi Shane says the new technology is more advanced.

"This is what we call a conventional otoscope," said Shane, an assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine. "The only thing that this is providing is a light source."

She says the device could save time, money, and maybe even reduce the use of antibiotics.

Barrett would love to give it a try.

"Just to be able to check it out myself and be able to send it in to the doctor would be amazing," she said.

Researchers finished the initial clinical trial in February. The company that makes the device is planning to launch it this coming fall. The application is expected to cost between $100 and $200.

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