The Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS has cooperated with Intecsoft medical GmbH & Co.KG to develop an all-in-one system that will make it possible to provide ECG results by "on-line cardiologists" in the future. The system is designed to greatly facilitate the work of physicians who are not authorized to perform ECG tests.
An electrocardiogram (ECG in short) provides a lot of information about the health of the human heart. Information about heart frequency and heart rhythm, for example, is obtained by deriving, recording and analyzing the electrical activity of the heart. This makes it possible to detect heart diseases such as cardiac arrhythmia, inflammations of the heart muscle or even heart attacks, so that these conditions may be treated in a timely manner. Typically this test is performed by a cardiologist or at the hospital if an operation is required. A long-term ECG is normally used for analyzing the severity of cardiac arrhythmia or to detect rare or intermittent arrhythmia or circulation problems in the heart. In this case, the patient wears a portable ECG device that measures the electrical activity of the heart over a period of 24 hours or longer. On the next day, the patient returns the device to the doctor's office, where the data must then be evaluated by a specialist.
Diagnosing heart problems outside of the doctor's office
The scientists at Fraunhofer IPMS looked for a way to minimize the effort and costs - both for patient and for physicians. An in-house developed three-channel ECG recorder that has been approved for medical use since 2013, which derives and analyzes long-term ECGs in the home environment under everyday conditions and provides this information to the physician in real time with wireless communication, has been a first important milestone. Now the researchers have standardized the analysis algorithms for the ECG recorder so they can be applied in a web-based all-in-one system. The plan is to establish a portal where cardiologists can register and diagnose the ECG measurement values at any location.
The analysis of data is based on the rhythm evaluation, QRS classification, analysis of atrium activity, ST section changes (ischemia) and QT measurements. Patient data is analyzed by a standard-approved system in the ECG recorder even while the unit is worn - and not only afterwards. In the case of conspicuous measurement values and irregularities, the device sends an ECG excerpt to the portal via a gateway, for example the patient's Smartphone. The quality of the measurement data is increased as the movement and physical activity of the patient is also recorded by sensors and analyzed. Linking this movement information with the ECG data makes it possible to allocate changes in the ECG to the associated physical stress situation. The data is then analyzed on the portal by the corresponding specialists and a personal diagnosis is prepared. The treating physician can retrieve the analysis of the data at any time and subsequently provide the relevant care for his patients without the patient always having to consult a specialist.
With this all-in-one solution, Fraunhofer IPMS makes it possible to monitor and analyze heart activity over a longer time period using a compact and comfortable device with integrated sensors, continuous and immediate signal processing and wireless data transfer.
Anyone interested in the competencies of Fraunhofer IPMS can visit the Institute at MEDICA - the world's leading trade fair for medicine in Düsseldorf - from November 12 - 15, 2014. The exhibition by Fraunhofer IPMS can be found in Hall 3 at Booth E74.