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.