FDA Approves Retinal Image Capturing iPhone Device

March 12, 2013

Telemedicine has made another large stride with the FDA approval of an eye-retina image capturing iPhone app, accompanied by an iPhone adapter, for eye exams to be done. The adapter connects to an opthalmoscope, an instrument that eye doctors use to examine the eye. The opthalmoscope is one of the most common instruments currently used in medical screenings.

iExaminer - iPhone attachment

Looking through an ophthalmoscope, doctors can examine the eye’s retina, retina blood vessels, optic disc, and foveal depression (small cavity in the eye).

The instrument is often used to diagnose eye conditions (like retinal detachment or glaucoma), but the ophthalmoscope is also important for gathering information for other medical conditions.

It is used for examinations of neurological conditions and pediatric development.

Welch-Allyn iPhone Adapter and App

This new FDA-approved Welch-Allyn iPhone adapter (iExaminer) and app allow high resolution images to be captured of what is seen through the opthalmoscope.  This includes the retinal nerve, fundus, and other eye components seen. An iExaminer app on the iPhone allows the images to be stored as pictures in a patient file.  They can also be e-mailed or printed.

The company also includes a portable opthalmoscope, with its iPhone app and adapter. It expects that all three components together can be used to do eye exams in rural or urban areas where there is not easy access to physicians. Images can be captured on an iPhone using the adapter and app and then forwarded to an eye specialist who can diagnose any eye condition that may be present.

Welch Allyn states that the new adapter device is affordable and can be used in any clinician’s office and allows many images to be taken of the back of the eye in a very short period of time. These retinal images can be stored on the phone or transferred elsewhere, shared with the patient if necessary to show abnormalities, and also shared with other doctors. It can currently be used with an iPhone 4 and 4s, but may soon be available for the iPhone 5.

Telemedicine Today

This link about telemedicine discusses how ocular (eye) health is one of the most promising areas, especially to screen for diabetic retinopathy. Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia has a telemedicine center which is already helping patients get eye screenings in pharmacies and family medicine clinics close to their homes.

Other niche areas in telemedicine for entrepreneurs and investors to consider include behavioral health, dermatology, radiology, correctional (prison-related) healthcare, and pediatric (child-related) subspecialties.

The devices such as the iExaminer iphone attachment leveraging smart phones, and mobile and cloud technologies are known as mHealth devices.

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