Health & Wellbeing

Using smartphones and the cloud to diagnose ear infections

Using smartphones and the clou...
The study made use of both commercially available otoscopes, and a low-cost, custom-made alternative that connects to smartphones
The study made use of both commercially available otoscopes, and a low-cost, custom-made alternative that connects to smartphones
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The study made use of both commercially available otoscopes, and a low-cost, custom-made alternative that connects to smartphones
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The study made use of both commercially available otoscopes, and a low-cost, custom-made alternative that connects to smartphones

Ear infections are extremely common,with five out of every six children experiencing one before they'rethree years old. But in developing countries, the lack of trainedpersonnel means that they're often misdiagnosed, or missedcompletely. A new tool developed by researchers at the UmeaUniversity in Sweden, in collaboration with scientists at theUniversity of Pretoria in South Africa, is designed to leverage thepower of smartphones and the cloud, making accurate diagnoses easierand more widely available.

Not treating an ear infection (otitis media) can be dangerous, potentially leading to hearing impairments,and in certain extreme cases, can even have life-threateningcomplication. The newly-developed system could have a big impact inthe developing world, providing easy diagnosis that doesn't requirethe presence of an expert.

The process is simple. Users simply usean otoscope, which are commercially available, to take an image of the inner ear. That image is thenuploaded to the cloud via a smartphone, where it's automatically analyzed and comparedwith high-resolution archive imagery. The software looks forpredefined visual features, and places the new image in one of fivediagnostic groups.

In testing, the automatically generateddiagnosis was found to have an accuracy of 80.6 percent when using imagery from a commercially available otoscope, whichcompares very favorably to the 64-80 percent accuracy achieved bygeneral practitioners and paediatricians. The team also developed itsown low-cost, custom-made otoscope that connects directly to a smartphone. The results there weresimilarly impressive, with an accuracy of 78.7 percent.

"This method has great potential toensure accurate diagnoses of ear infections in countries where suchopportunities are not available at present," said paper co-authorClaude Laurent. "Since the method is both easy and cheap to use, itenables rapid and reliable diagnoses of a very common childhoodillness."

The idea of leveraging modern tech fordiagnosing ear infections is something we've actually seen before.The CellScope Oto utilizes a similar idea, allowing parents to image theinside of the child's ear at home via a physical smartphoneattachment. Diagnosis isn't automatic in that case though, stillrequiring the eyes of a trained professional.

The results of the new research areavailable in full, in the journal EbioMedicine.

Source: Umea University

1 comment
charlieFreak
Good luck plugging those RGB Component connectors into a Smartphone!