New life for digital health technologies

In the development of digital medicine, Fraunhofer IIS focuses on progression monitoring for people with chronic conditions. During the pandemic, this expertise has proved beneficial to two projects within Fraunhofer’s anti-coronavirus program: the pandemic management app for health authorities and the concept for a portable monitoring system for COVID-19 patients on normal hospital wards.


There are only a handful of sectors that prospered during the first year of the pandemic – and digital medicine is definitely one of them. “Both politics and the general population have experienced a shift in awareness about digital medicine,” says Dr. Christian Münzenmayer, Head of Image Processing and Medical Engineering at Fraunhofer IIS. “Germany’s Digital Healthcare Act (DVG), which came into force at the end of 2019, provided an additional tailwind.”

Prescribing apps for chronic patients

Münzenmayer has high hopes for Germany’s Digital Healthcare Act because it provides for digital health applications to be covered by health insurance companies. This also includes the technologies that the Fraunhofer IIS team is working on, such as the Digital Patient Manager, or DPM for short. “We’re creating a decentralized infrastructure for medical communication,” Münzenmayer says. Instead of using a central database, each patient’s data is stored on their smartphone or computer.  

© Fraunhofer IIS
Mobile Health Lab for Connected and Digitalized Healthcare

This gives patients sovereignty over their data and means they can decide with whom they wish to share it. The DPM can be paired with apps and sensors that record the condition of people suffering from chronic illnesses. It was created as part of the Mobile Health Lab, which in turn is funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy.

Most people with chronic conditions go to the doctor only occasionally, usually every three months. They are often largely in the dark about how they are doing in between visits. This is where the intelligent solutions created by the Fraunhofer IIS medical engineering team come in. Essentially, the solutions feature an app that allows each patient to enter information on how they are feeling and what symptoms they are experiencing. This information is supplemented by data from sensors that are specially tailored to their illness. In collaboration with the Universitätsklinikum Erlangen and Portabiles HealthCare Technologies GmbH, Fraunhofer IIS is also working on a solution to help people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. The solution analyzes motion data collected by a sensor integrated into the patient’s shoe. Doctors can then use this data to monitor progress in treatment. The Parkinson’s project is supported by the EIT Health initiative, which is funded by the EU.

Cognitive sensor technology improves diagnostics for atrial fibrillation

“CardioTEXTIL is an intelligent sensor technology that we’re developing for everyday use in cardiology, specifically for people with atrial fibrillation,” Münzenmayer says. Around two million people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland suffer from this treacherous form of cardiac arrythmia, which presents sporadically and greatly increases the risk of stroke. To reduce this risk, patients are generally treated with blood thinners. What makes the condition treacherous is that atrial fibrillation often goes undiagnosed and therefore untreated.

CardioTEXTIL is now set to close this diagnostic gap by providing a long-term ECG that takes place over weeks or even months. Fraunhofer IIS laid the groundwork for this development several years ago with its FitnessSHIRT, in which ECG electrodes are integrated into the tight-fitting garment. But unlike the FitnessSHIRT, CardioTEXTIL delivers ECG data of medical quality. The electrodes are integrated into a harness system that can be comfortably worn under normal clothing. On the back of the system is a small electronic device that collects ECG signals and transmits them to a smartphone. In the future, energy-efficient AI processes running on energy-saving embedded processors will analyze the ECG signal within the electronic device itself to detect relevant events. Ten CardioTEXTIL prototypes have already been produced; the team plans to test them on volunteers next year.


“Both politics and the general population have experienced a shift in awareness about digital medicine.”

Dr. Christian Münzenmayer, Head of Image Processing and Medical Engineering


Pandemic management app for health authorities

Together with industry partner NeuroSys GmbH, the Medical Engineering department applied its expertise in collecting medical data to develop a pandemic management app for health authorities. “Real contact tracing requires health authorities to inquire daily about health data such as temperature, pulse or symptoms – a job that’s now really too big for staff,” Münzenmayer says. This is where the pandemic management app can make life a lot easier. It is designed to allow each contact person to enter their own data, which is then transmitted automatically to the relevant health authority. Inquiries by phone can then be reserved for cases in which the data indicates a critical progression of the condition.

M3Infekt – Better monitoring of COVID-19

If COVID-19 patients are located on normal hospital wards, their condition can deteriorate rapidly to become life-threatening. However, continuous monitoring of vital signs is available only on intensive care wards. Ten Fraunhofer institutions and four clinics joined forces to develop a monitoring system for this group of patients. In September 2020 they launched the “M3Infekt” project. M3 stands for multimodal, modular and mobile. Multimodal means that the system is equipped with various sensor modules to collect data on parameters such as ECG, oxygen saturation and respiratory rate. Fraunhofer IIS is coordinating the project and its contributions include CardioTEXTIL and AI-based biosignal analysis. “The monitoring system will also benefit people suffering from other serious infectious conditions, such as influenza or sepsis,” Münzenmayer says. “The funding we received as part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s anti-coronavirus program is paving the way for a development that will prove highly relevant even after the current pandemic.”




© Fraunhofer IIS
Pandemic management app to support public health departments
© Fraunhofer IIS
Textile multi-channel ECG for mobile use
© Fraunhofer IIS
Convenient long-term measurement without adhesive electrodes