Welch Allyn touts iPhone-based eye exam device

Welch Allyn says its iPhone-integrated iExaminer is a versatile, easy-to-use tool for eye exams--courtesy of Welch Allyn

Welch Allyn has taken its PanOptic Ophthalmoscope and fitted it with iPhone capabilities, and the resulting iExaminer allows physicians to capture, store, send and retrieve images taken in eye exams.

The device, which is pending 510(k) clearance, consists of a hardware adapter and associated software, aligning the PanOptic's viewfinder with the iPhone's high-resoltion lens. The PanOptic offers a viewing area of the fundus and retinal nerve in an undilated pupil that is 5 times larger than that of a traditional ophthalmoscope, Welch Allyn says, and pairing it with the iPhone will improve quality of care by providing easy-to-share imaging.

"It will increase workflow efficiency by allowing providers to capture and share images from any clinical environment," Welch Allyn Senior Manager Rick Farchione said in a statement. "It is a low-cost way to digitally capture eye imaging and will also make it easier for providers to share images with their patients, helping to improve patient knowledge and compliance."

Wyche Coleman, inventor of the iExaminer, said the device's portability and ease of use make it ideal for remote patients and those in under-served areas. To be sure, he tested it out: "I was able to take this very lightweight, portable, inexpensive iExaminer to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in sub-Saharan Africa and take a picture of a patient's fundus," Coleman said in a statement. "From the top of the mountain, I then transmitted it to a doctor at Johns Hopkins University in the United States where he was able to analyze the image."

If the device is as versatile and accessible as Welch Allyn claims, it could be boon for the financially beleaguered company. Last month, Welch Allyn announced plans to trim its workforce by 10% over the next three years, cutting 275 jobs in a move designed to ease the pain of the impending device tax.

- read Welch Allyn's statement