University of Calgary researchers have developed an iPhone application that allows doctors to diagnose a stroke in a patient thousands of kilometres away.

The application will be particularly helpful to doctors in rural areas who need the expertise of a specialist, such as a neurologist or radiologist, who is working in an urban setting, say researchers.

The specialist will be able to see diagnostic images from a CT scan on their phone, whether they are at a Calgary hospital or a hockey game.

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Ross Mitchell, a professor of radiology at U of C, holds an iPad showing a CT scan of the brain. (CBC)

"Now a physician anywhere can get a call on their iPhone and can immediately take a look at the images in the remote community," said Ross Mitchell, a professor of radiology at the university who helped develop the software. "They can do more than just look at them. They can cut into them, rotate it in 3D, they can do all kinds of advanced visualizations and analysis, which may be critical to make the diagnosis."

Every minute counts when diagnosing a stroke, he added.

A study published in the current issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that doctors using the application were 94 to 100 per cent accurate in diagnosing acute stroke, compared to a traditional medical diagnostic work station.

Health Canada approved the application last month so Canadian doctors can now legally use it as a primary diagnosis device.

The application, called ResolutionMD Mobile,  works on iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones and tablets.

CT scanners in rural communities would be attached to a server protected by the hospital's firewall. That means patient information would be kept safe, says Mitchell. Also the doctor with the iPhone doesn't have to wait for all the information to download, the server is doing the hard work and streams the images to the phone in real time.

Calgary Scientific Inc., the company that helped refine the software, has already licensed the application to over 50,000 hospitals around the world.