October 11, 2012 in Medicine
Researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University developed a device they call a Remotoscope that fits over the lens of the iPhone camera and turns it into an otoscope for visualizing and taking pictures of the ear canal and ear drum. The associated app can be used to send these pictures to your favorite pediatrician.
The obvious advantage of this is to allow parents to bypass an initial or follow up visit to a crowded pediatrics office by sending in iPhone photos instead. This seems great if you’re a busy helicopter parent. This seems like a potential problem if you’re a pediatrician.
Like other primary care doctors, pediatricians get paid only per visit and per procedure. Reimbursement for tele-medicine (reviewing pictures of infected ears) is likely to be far lower than an in office visit. This could both reduce the overall income and increase the workload for a pediatrician who sees fewer patients but has to review dozens of ear pictures every day.
One also has to worry about the potential for an increased number of injuries from perforated ear drums caused by aggressive parents who’s level of competence means that they should not be sticking anything in their child’s ears. Though use of this device may have the potential to lower rates of unnecessary antibiotic use for viral ear infections since parents may feel less entitled to a prescription if all they did was send in a picture as opposed to waiting for hours in a crowed office for a two minute visit.