As winter turns Melbourne a darker shade of grey, 11-month-old Toby has a worrying gurgle in his chest. It's bad enough that his mother, Julianne, wants him seen by a doctor. But instead of taking her son out into the cold on an hour-long trip for a five-minute consultation, she plugs a small digital stethoscope into her iPhone's headphone jack and gets to work.
The device looks more like a silver yo-yo than a medical instrument but paired with the accompanying wireless, non-contact thermometer it has, in less than a minute, measured Toby's temperature, heart rate and made a 15-second recording of his breathing.
As he shuffles impatiently in his mother's arms, a smartphone app analyses the data and gives a prognosis before sending it to a GP for confirmation. It's nothing more than a passing cold and Toby is soon back on the sofa with a spoonful of cough syrup – the whole process having taken seven minutes and 32 seconds in the warmth of his own home.
Far from science fiction, this product is already on sale. CliniCloud was invented by two Melburnian doctors and while local rules mean this scenario can't play out fully in Australia because there is no video doctor service yet, it will start shipping across the United States from July 2015 with a family-friendly price tag of $US149.
CliniCloud is one among a wave of new products that, after years of talk, are turning the promise of telemedicine into reality. In recent months Google, Apple and Telstra have all invested serious money in telemedicine.
Aside from CliniCloud's smart stethoscope, a Californian company has started selling otoscopes that clip onto smartphone cameras to allow remote viewing of children's eardrums.