eGeia virtuelle Physiotherapie

Vir­tu­al physiotherapy

How the start-up eGeia is brin­ging rehab into your own living room

If you’­ve sur­vi­ved a medi­cal emer­gen­cy or a major ope­ra­ti­on, reha­bi­li­ta­ti­on mea­su­res usual­ly fol­low. Howe­ver, reha­bi­li­ta­ti­on tre­at­ments are time-con­­sum­ing and the­r­e­fo­re not always easy for pati­ents to inte­gra­te into their ever­y­day lives. In struc­tu­ral­ly weak are­as, the distances peo­p­le have to tra­vel for their the­ra­py are often long, and pati­ents are limi­t­ed in their mobi­li­ty par­ti­cu­lar­ly after a hip ope­ra­ti­on or a frac­tu­re. In addi­ti­on, the­re is a shorta­ge of qua­li­fied phy­sio­the­ra­pists: tho­se who urgen­tly need phy­sio­the­ra­py usual­ly have to make num­e­rous calls befo­re a place is found or they end up on wai­ting lists.

The Pots­­dam-based start­up eGeia shows that things can be dif­fe­rent in the future with its eHe­alth pro­duct Mei­neRe­ha. The start­up brings the reha­bi­li­ta­ti­on cent­re and the the­ra­pist into your own living room. The eGeia GmbH team mana­ged to do this by deve­lo­ping a soft­ware as part of its work at the Fraun­ho­fer Institute’s FOKUS to record move­ment data and pro­vi­de gui­dance for a digi­tal exer­cise pro­gram­me. A sen­sor box con­nec­ted to the TV set enables the pati­ent to see a mir­ror image of them­sel­ves as they are per­forming the move­ments. The intel­li­gent algo­rithm is able to reco­g­ni­se the per­son in the room and abs­tract them from the envi­ron­ment. The sen­sor mea­su­res the indi­vi­du­al lim­bs, the arms and leg move­ments three-dimen­­sio­nal­­ly in real time and keeps an eye on sequen­ces and even angu­lar dimen­si­ons during each exer­cise. Is the squat in the right posi­ti­on? Does the upper body need to be bent more? The pro­gram­me then ana­ly­ses the data and also trans­mits the pro­gress of the the­ra­py from the pre­vious weeks to the the­ra­pists. This means that pati­ents can per­form the exer­ci­s­es fle­xi­bly at any time, but are still not left to their own devices.

“Mei­neRe­ha is effec­tively the exten­ded arm of the the­ra­pist,” says mana­ging direc­tor Maciej Piwo­w­ar­c­zyk vel Dabrow­ski. The­ra­pists are­n’t repla­ced by their digi­tal assistants - in many cases, com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on will be even more per­so­nal and direct. In addi­ti­on, no one in the back row will be over­loo­ked unli­ke in a crow­ded trai­ning room. On the con­tra­ry, thanks to the ana­ly­sis and recor­ding, the the­ra­pist can keep a clo­se eye on every move­ment. If an exer­cise does­n’t quite work or feels real­ly pain­ful, pati­ents can get in touch and ask for help. The sys­tem sends the request to the the­ra­pists who­se inter­face coll­ects all the data. They can then see the cur­rent sta­tus of the the­ra­py pro­cess, but also access the pati­ents’ records or use the com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on tool. The­ra­pists can also be con­nec­ted direct­ly via an inte­gra­ted video con­fe­rence and cor­rect the exer­ci­s­es. The same appli­es to the ana­ly­ses: the objec­ti­ve mea­su­re­ments are more accu­ra­te than jud­ging by eye. The addi­tio­nal infor­ma­ti­on means that it is even pos­si­ble to impro­ve or extend the dia­gno­sis or the­ra­py in some cases.

Half an hour of dai­ly exer­cise in front of the TV: the pro­ce­du­re almost resem­bles an online fit­ness pro­gram­me for the pati­ents. But the medi­cal com­po­nent is para­mount to Mei­neRe­ha. “Our sys­tem was deve­lo­ped tog­e­ther with the­ra­pists and doc­tors. We meet the safe­ty regu­la­ti­ons and are curr­ent­ly working on regu­la­to­ry appr­oval as a medi­cal pro­duct. The qua­li­ty stan­dards requi­red are enorm­ous becau­se the sys­tem can’t make any mista­kes or any mista­kes must be detec­ta­ble. Our sys­tem must func­tion at least as well as humans, and that’s what it is doing,” says Mana­ging Direc­tor Piwo­w­ar­c­zyk vel Dabrow­ski. In the future, it is con­ceiva­ble that one might also offer phy­sio­the­ra­py, phy­si­cal pre­ven­ti­on work, after­ca­re or pre­ven­ti­ve care in addi­ti­on to reha­bi­li­ta­ti­on care.

The sys­tem is desi­gned in such a way that even older peo­p­le can ope­ra­te it with ease. The web­cam is inte­gra­ted, the spe­cial sen­sor and the soft­ware are sup­pli­ed. All the digi­tal rehab needs is a power sup­p­ly and a TV set to get star­ted. Sin­ce the focus is on move­ment, the came­ra only pro­vi­des a video sec­tion of the patient’s body. The living room’s fur­ni­tu­re, the colour of the sofa or the wall­pa­per are not film­ed and thus pri­va­cy is pre­ser­ved. It is also important for data pro­tec­tion that the pati­ents can them­sel­ves then deci­de whe­ther they want to send the video of their exer­ci­s­es or just the mea­su­re­ment data to the therapists.

The need for tele­the­ra­py has increased par­ti­cu­lar­ly during the Coro­na pan­de­mic. At the same time, the accep­tance of digi­tal ser­vices has increased. Web­cams, digi­tal mee­tings or con­fe­ren­ces have beco­me an inte­gral part of our ever­y­day life. And the Fede­ral Government’s Digi­tal Health­ca­re Act (DVG) is also making it easier to bring digi­tal health appli­ca­ti­ons onto the mar­ket and con­nect with the reim­bur­se­ment models of the health insu­rance funds.

Apart from “eGeia acti­ve”, eGeia’s pro­duct ran­ge includes advice about the appr­oval of medi­cal devices and data pro­tec­tion. They sup­port cus­to­mers who want to opti­mi­se cer­tain are­as or digi­ti­se pro­ces­ses. This is becau­se the Ger­man health­ca­re mar­ket is strict­ly regu­la­ted and abounds with com­plex requi­re­ments. Tech­no­lo­gy and pro­ces­ses are clo­se­ly scru­ti­ni­sed. Its base in the Sci­ence Park at Pots­­dam-Golm means that the com­pa­ny is also able to bene­fit signi­fi­cant­ly from the exch­an­ge and coope­ra­ti­on bet­ween sci­ence and busi­ness. The health tech sce­ne the­re is dri­ving the digi­ti­sa­ti­on of the health sys­tem, not least in order to redu­ce sup­p­ly bot­t­len­ecks in the future and impro­ve gene­ral medi­cal care.

About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.