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Atlanta research team testing iPhone app for earaches | News

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Atlanta research team testing iPhone app for earaches

ATLANTA -- Researchers in Atlanta are developing an iPhone attachment that would help children with ear infections stay out of emergency rooms.

The "Remotoscope" is designed for an at-home diagnosis.

"For those kids who get very frequent ear infections, we hope ultimately that this can be used at home in collaboration with a remote physician," said Dr. Wilbur Lam, assistant professor in the William H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Dr. Lam is leading a research team at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Georgia Tech. They're collaborating with colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley.

"I really like being able to see the ear this way because you get a nice, large clear picture of what the inside of the ear looks like," said Emory University Medical School student Kathryn Rappaport, who's part of the team. 

The Remotoscope uses a special app, plus the iPhone's camera and flash to produce still pictures or video of the inside ear. 

It's designed to be safe and easy enough for parents to use at home, but researchers want the diagnosis and treatment plan to stay in the hands of doctors.

"We want to allow them to talk about, oh, in this case maybe you don't need antibiotics or this is what it looks like or it's getting worse, it's getting better," said Dr. Lam. 

The goal is to cut down on expensive emergency room visits and unnecessary antibiotics.

For parents, it's about peace of mind.

"If they're running a fever or pulling their ears, you never know what to do," said parent Suzanne Schaefer. "I just wish we had it when they were younger."

Parents would be able to e-mail images to their pediatrician or use FaceTime to share real-time video.

The Remotoscope is still about two years from market.

The research team is about to finish its first clinical trial, which included 70 children who were treated at the Hughes Spalding Emergency Room in Atlanta.

The first trail is being funded by the FDA and the Atlanta Pediatric Device Consortium, which is a partnership among Georgia Tech, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and Emory University.

Dr. Lam and a colleague, Erik Douglas, started the project as doctoral students at UC Berkeley. They went on to create the startup CellScope Inc.