Of all the apps on your iPhone or Android, how many are truly useful and how many are completely outrageous?

When it comes to scientists and apps, they don't play around. Researchers have developed an inexpensive and experimental iPhone app to transmit heart images for diagnostic purposes. The images can be sent more quickly and more reliably than an e-mail, the researchers say.

The scientists from the University of Virginia Wireless Internet Center for Advanced Technology presented their study at the American Heart Association's (AMA) Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2013, which was held from May 15 to 17 in Baltimore.

"Simple cellular technology can save lives," said David Burt, M.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. "This system may make pre-hospital ECG transmission a more inexpensive and reliable option. That can translate to faster treatment and saved lives."

In the study, researchers designed the app to take photos of the electrocardiogram (ECG) image, a test that involves recording the heart's electrical impulses by applying probes on the chest.

The image can be sent from an emergency medical personnel with the patient to the destined hospital physician within four to six seconds, while the same image would take 38 to 114 seconds in actual size or 17 to 48 seconds in a larger size via email.

The app was even tested more than 1,500 times on Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon plans within urban areas. Currently, the researchers are testing the app in rural locations with limited reception.

The diagnostic app could save lives by providing more time and speed the treatment process for fatal heart attacks known as ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), which is when a blood clot blocks circulation to the heart.

Currently, some hospitals use mobile devices to take ECG photos, but in low-reception locations, it is harder to send large files. The diagnostic app has the ability to take big photos and reduce their size while preserving the clarity and resolution for an appropriate diagnosis.

"In many places, it may be feasible to transmit vital ECGs over commercial cell-phone networks, saving money, and allowing areas without commercial ECG transmission systems to still connect pre-hospital emergency medical services with STEMI treatment centers," said Burt.

Researchers have also tried other ways to improve treatment for patients experiencing fatal heart attacks. A March 2013 study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center also managed to provide timely treatment for STEMI patients by merging emergency medical services (EMS) data and the hospital's clinical data.

According to the AMA, nearly 250,000 people suffer from a STEMI in the United States, and immediate treatment to repair blood flow is necessary for survival. A common hindrance to a patient's survival is failure to get to the hospital in time.

Surgery is recommended within 90 minutes after arriving at a hospital. Another option is getting treatment with thrombolytic or clot-busting medications that dissolve blood clots blocking the artery within 30 minutes.