New smart data concept to help patients with internal diseases get more active and live better lives

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The Sports Medicine Research Group of the University of Mainz involved in two projects coordinated by the Mainz University Medical Center set up a digital support system based on artificial intelligence to assist patients.

Regular and moderate physical activity can significantly improve the quality of life of people with internal diseases such as cancer and depression. Unfortunately, many people with internal disorders cannot adequately participate in exercise training for a variety of reasons. For example, they often do not have access to appropriate exercise training programs, a high therapeutic burden, fatigue or time to engage in physical activity.

Accordingly, the sports medicine research team led by Professor Pericles Simon of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) investigates how physical activity can be improved and integrated into patients’ daily lives using digital tools such as wearables and mobile apps in combination with secure data transfer. and sophisticated data analytics. Overall, the primary goal of research methods is to improve patients’ quality of life.

With this smart data concept, we want to employ a digital infrastructure to support people with internal medicine as well as exercise therapists who guide patients in exercise therapy.”

Barlow Hillen, research associate in JGU’s Department of Sports Medicine, Disease Prevention and Rehabilitation

JGU Sports Medicine is involved in two related research projects coordinated by the Mainz University Medical Center: DECIDE, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the EU project RELEVIUM.

Decide: Use algorithms and smartwatches to benefit patients

The JGU Sports Medicine research group strives to ensure improved exercise load management for patients. The group aims to help patients cope better with their individual disorders, improve their personal well-being and increase their ability to cope with daily tasks, or at least maintain this ability even as the disease progresses. The new project “Decentralized Digital Environment for Consultation, Data Integration, Decision Making, and Patient Empowerment” (DECIDE) is coordinated by Dr. Torsten Panholzer, head of medical informatics at the Institute of Medical Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics (IMBEI) of the Mainz University Medical Center. One of the main objectives of DECIDE is to improve the level of support services available to patients with colon cancer, lung cancer, or depression living in rural areas of Rhineland-Palatinate. Networking of regional hospitals, physicians, self-help groups and researchers coordinated by the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Research results are intended to directly support patients.

In collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics (ITWM), the JGU research group plans to implement intelligent digital support systems that will enable independent control of patients’ daily physical activities. A smartwatch will register patients’ vitals as well as their perceived exertion and pain. The data is transmitted to an app on patients’ smartphones and from there to their therapists. A feedback loop and an automated data analysis system will regularly ensure proper modification of training recommendations for each individual. “In previous projects, it was necessary to analyze exercise protocols and create training plans manually. This was very time-consuming. Our digital tools will be able to automate most of the work, increasing the efficiency of this process,” added Hillen.. Depending on the individual patient, Recommendations may include moderate-intensity exercise, endurance exercise, such as brisk walking or jogging at intervals, and mobility training. The suggested form of exercise should fit into the patient’s daily routine. The objective is to minimize any potential logistical or financial barriers that may discourage patients from exercise participation.

The partners of the University Medical Center Mainz and the JGU Sports Medicine research group in the DECIDE project are the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics and MCS Data Labs GmbH in Berlin. DECIDE is currently studying health issues in pilot phase. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the project with 5.5 million euros as part of its digital strategy program.

RELEVIUM: Improving the quality of life of pancreatic cancer patients

The EU project RELEVIUM aims to support patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Their pain and uncontrolled weight loss should be alleviated based on a highly individualized approach to nutrition, physical activity, and pain management—including chemotherapy. Digital systems with automated assessment algorithms will particularly facilitate monitoring of patients’ sarcopenia, nutritional intake, physical activity and pain perception. The JGU Sports Medicine research group will advise on appropriate physical exercise and support the project consortium by planning and implementing randomized clinical trials in five medical centers in Europe, subsequently analyzing the collected comprehensive data.

“We will determine the impact of the smart data concept and investigate whether patients actually benefit from using digital tools and experience a better quality of life,” said Barlow Hillen. In terms of physical activity, training programs will be organized similarly to DECIDE, but they will be specifically adapted to the needs and abilities of people with pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate among cancers and is responsible for 95,000 deaths per year in the EU alone.

The RELEVIUM consortium consists of 18 partners in ten countries. RELEVIUM includes major European medical and cancer centers in Belgium, Estonia, France and Israel. The European research network is being coordinated by Professor Markus Mohler of the Medical Clinic I of the Mainz University Medical Center. The project was launched on 1 September 2022 with a feasibility study involving both diseased and healthy participants and is planned to run until 2026. The European Union provided funding of around 6 million euros for the project.

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