Skip to Content

Parents Could Skip the Doctor’s Office with This Device

A smart-phone add-on enables at-home diagnosis of ear infections, one of the top reasons for pediatrician visits.

Many parents have experienced the angst of a crying baby with an ear infection. Some 30 million medical visits in the U.S. alone are due to pediatric ear infections each year.

A startup called CellScope has developed a device that could make such visits unnecessary. It connects to an iPhone and produces a view inside the ear magnified by a factor of 10. Users can capture and upload images to CellScope’s Web platform. After adding notes about other symptoms, parents could ask their own doctor to conduct a remote exam. In most cases, that would be enough information for a prescription to be called in, says CellScope CEO Erik Douglas.

This week, CellScope raised $1 million from Khosla Ventures to work on this smart-phone-connected version of the otoscope, the common instrument doctors use to look inside ears and diagnose infections.

CellScope, which graduated from the Rock Health health-care IT incubator last year, is an example of the recent surge of health-related devices and applications for smart phones. Already, patients can track their fitness, take their blood sugar, and even detect malaria using phones and connected devices. Juniper Research predicts there will be 142 million downloads of mobile health apps by 2016.

Mike Wisz, a health-care technology consultant, says CellScope is interesting for its potential to reduce office visits and the costs of care. The images it captures might also allow parents to more easily seek a second opinion, and could be stored in a child’s electronic health records for future reference, he says.

CellScope’s technology was first developed at the University of California, Berkeley, where bioengineering professor Daniel Fletcher’s research team produced a mobile microscope that is used to diagnose tuberculosis in developing countries (see “A Cell-Phone Microscope for Disease Detection”).

Douglas, who worked on that project, says the company was formed to commercialize the concept. It’s starting with simple uses that require lower magnification.

The company is pilot-testing its mobile otoscope with doctors in the Bay Area, and conducting a clinical study to show that the images are as good as other diagnosis methods, says Douglas. The device will be marketed to consumers, although a user’s doctor would have to okay with the unconventional method. The price isn’t determined yet, but wouldn’t be out of the range of other iPhone accessories, Douglas says.

CellScope is developing other uses for mobile microscopy and imaging to build a “digital first aid” kit. One upcoming product, a dermascope, would produce diagnostic-quality images of skin ailments. After ear infections, skin rashes are the second leading reason for pediatrician visits, the company says.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other
conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other

Forget dating apps: Here’s how the net’s newest matchmakers help you find love

Fed up with apps, people looking for romance are finding inspiration on Twitter, TikTok—and even email newsletters.

computation concept
computation concept

How AI is reinventing what computers are

Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

We reviewed three at-home covid tests. The results were mixed.

Over-the-counter coronavirus tests are finally available in the US. Some are more accurate and easier to use than others.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.