With just a special iPhone case and app, doctors can now quickly and effectively screen patients for atrial fibrillation (AF), a University of Sydney study found.

Called iECG, the AliveCor Heart Monitor for iPhone could be the key to the detection and treatment of one of the most common heart rhythm problems.

Patients with AF are particularly prone to strokes, the debilitating and dangerous kinds of strokes. This can usually be prevented with anticoagulant medication, which doctors prescribe as soon as they confirm the AF diagnosis.

However, the identification of AF before it causes a stroke has long been a challenge, often due to the lack of apparent symptoms. According to the research, plenty of people actually have AF but are undiagnosed and not on any medication, making them highly susceptible to strokes.

The iECG changes all this. The device takes a reading using just a single lead, and the results are displayed in real-time on the iPhone’s monitor or sent for review to specialists on the case.

The reading is also analyzed automatically on the app’s website, which then determines whether the patient has AF. The study’s researchers tested the accuracy of this prediction function and their findings revealed that the website made the correct diagnosis 97 percent of the time.

What makes iECG even more efficient and convenient is that screening takes just a manner of minutes. Plus, it is extremely user-friendly and portable and would be very cost effective, especially in comparison with traditional 12 lead ECGs.

Trials are under way to determine just how viable the iECG is. But based on initial tests, it’s shaping up to be a reliable and flexible tool for screening AF.