Innovation Watch



Cellscope has released the Oto HOME and Oto CLINIC otoscopes for use on consumer and clinician iPhones.  This allows the capture of otoscopy images directly on a smartphone by using a cleverly-designed phone case and a removable lens that takes advantage of the iPhone’s built-in camera sensor and flash.

The hardware for this device is relatively minimal, consisting of a slim black case for an iPhone (it will not work in conjunction with other cases) and a small lens that can be attached to a groove or cutout in the back of the case near the camera lens.  The device also ships with a small holder for the lens and specula, allowing the otoscope to be slipped into a pocket or desk when not in use.

This is a novel approach to smartphone imaging products for telehealth applications, as many other devices have historically required a single-purpose phone case or attachment that was too large or bulky to be used as a day-to-day case.  The Cellscope product, while not useable with other phone cases, is discreet enough to be kept on the phone when the otoscope lens is removed.  Also of note is that the case does not obstruct any of the camera controls, buttons, or ports.  The otoscope lens itself accepts several other models of specula, and also includes an insufflation port. 

The attaches to the case with an audible click, and is firmly seated when connected.  The lens inverts the image and reduces the field of view to the diameter of the speculum, meaning that using the lens with the standard camera application will result in a small upside-down image.  This is a problem if trying to use the device with videoconferencing applications or other imaging applications; however, when used with the approved software the camera automatically corrects the lens orientation and zooms and focuses on the lit portion of the image, meaning that the speculum opening fills the field of view in their software.  They have a different attachment solution for the iPhone 6, which consists of a small sleeve that slips over the top portion of the phone.

Image quality can be quite good, but it requires that the speculum be correctly position within the ear canal and sufficiently near the tympanic membrane.  Physician review was mixed; those who spent time learning how to use the device effectively were generally pleased with the potential of the device, while those who gave it a cursory look without learning the nuances of speculum placement found the images to be insufficiently illuminated.  TTAC had few-to-no problems when using the device for internal testing.

All in all, this is an exciting step forward for mobile devices in telehealth.  While many previous products required bulky attachments, single-purpose cases, or had insufficient quality, this product moves towards a more generally-useful device.  Additionally, their approach to lens mounts lends itself well to other imaging possibilities on the same platform.  It is easy to imaging a dermascope, general exam camera, or opthalmoscope fitting onto the same case, potentially making the mobile phone a powerful telehealth tool.

Product Specifications:

  • Size: 1.8cm x 2.5cm x 3.5cm
  • Resolution: Video – 960 x 540, Images 640 x 640
  • Optimal Focal Length: 12mm from end of specula tip