University Medicine Essen

Reduced risk of infection due to contactless measuring technology

DFG funds telemedicine project

Researchers at the Medical Faculty of the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) are developing a mobile measurement system that can be used to determine the health status of people with infectious diseases contactlessly, continuously and regardless of location. This would not only drastically reduce the risk of infection, for example in the case of COVID-19; it would also make it possible to detect critical deteriorations in those affected more quickly and arrange for them to be transferred to hospital. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the neon* project with 900,000 euros for 3 years.

How well or badly our body is doing at any given moment can be reliably and quickly determined by medical professionals by measuring the so-called vital parameters. The aim of the project is to develop a miniaturized sensor system for the contactless determination of vital parameters, for example oxygen saturation, body temperature, respiratory rate and pulse..

If the health of highly contagious patients deteriorates in their homes, doctors could customize treatment remotely and prevent hospitalization thanks to such a sensing device. If transfer is unavoidable, a non-contact sensing device would still be of great benefit: Since touching would no longer be necessary for measurement and monitoring, the risk of possible infection transmission would be minimized. This protects patients and staff alike.

"The use of such methods offers a high potential for innovation," emphasizes Prof. Dr. Christian Taube, Director of the Clinic for Pneumology at the Ruhrland Clinic of the University Medical Center Essen. "Clinical studies have shown that telemedical management of people with chronic diseases can be very successful. In the cases studied, fewer sufferers died, their quality of life improved and their treatment costs decreased."

How much telemedicine can help in pandemic or epidemic times is still unclear. "There is currently insufficient data for an evidence-based evaluation of its benefits," says Prof. Taube. However, he and his team already know from practical experience that there are patients who avoid medical examinations during a lockdown for fear of infection. "A contactless measuring device could take away this fear for them. It would also allow for checkups that would otherwise have to be cancelled during times like these. Finally, more distance treatments could help solve the bed occupancy problem hospitals face as infection rates rise."


To the project managers

At the Essen site, Prof. Dr. Christoph Schöbel and Dr. Sivagurunathan Sutharsan from the Department of Pneumology are responsible for the neon project. They submitted the successful DFG application together with Prof. Dr. Gunther Notni (Ilmenau University of Technology) and Prof. Dr. Karsten Seidl (University of Duisburg-Essen, Fraunhofer IMS).

* neon stands for "Acute and permanent monitoring of infectious patients using non-contact, multispectral, optical measurement systems".