old woman

Developing new technology for monitoring heart rhythm is a collaborative effort

Tuesday 19 Jan 21


Jakob Eyvind Bardram
Head of Sections, Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 53 11


Sadasivan Puthusserypady
Groupleader, Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 36 52

In the project REAFEL, cardiologists, general practitioners (GPs), health tech researchers and engineers have gained from collaborating with each other during their efforts towards developing an outpatient monitoring system for frail elderly persons with heart problems.

Going to the hospital to get your heart rhythm monitored can be troublesome and stressful for elderly frail patients. The aim of the project was therefore to enable heart patients to receive specialized treatment directly from their GPs among others through continuous ambulatory monitoring of their heart rhythm. 

The project team has now developed the basic components towards making this vision come true, and in this process, they have gained a lot from working together with people with different expertise. 

Collaboration makes us better
Bringing together skilled professionals from research, medical industry, as well as primary and specialized healthcare, forms the basis for creating an efficient solution for patients with potential heart arrhythmias. This collaborative approach is part of the strategy at DTU Health Tech, and the reason the department is keen on entering into partnerships and projects with the health sector, industry and other organisations to establish collaboration. 

"The REAFEL project is a good example of successful collaboration across public and private partners. "
Professor Jakob Bardram, DTU Health Tech

Professor Jakob Bardram, DTU Health Tech, who is a partner in the project and has been in charge of designing the mCardia system explains, “The REAFEL project is a good example of successful collaboration across public and private partners.

The partners in the project have each contributed with their specific parts towards the final result. In my opinion, working together with technological researchers, clinicians and a commercial partner has added to our understanding of what challenges the users of the technology experience, both for the doctors and the patients, enabling us to develop better and more user-friendly technology solutions”. 

The mCardia app developed by DTU Health TechPhoto by Jesper Scheel

Find a common ground 
Working together across areas of expertise and fields requires extra effort. Each partner steps into the project with different perspectives and cultures. Beyond the overarching goal of helping patients, there are for example different sub-goals from each partner ranging from commercial objectives to academic contributions, which is important to bear in mind during project execution. 

Chief Physician, Helena Dominguez, Department of Cardiology, Bispebjerg Hospital, is the project coordinator of the REAFEL project, and the idea woman behind the overall concept of the REAFEL patient management setup. She says, “We have spent time and resources in the project group to establish a common understanding of each partner’s background and traditions, and also what their main goal is as a partner in the project. I think it is important to take the time to do this to promote and facilitate strong collaboration ahead.” 
Cortrium’s C3 heart rhythm monitor. Photo: Cortrium

New perspectives and learnings
Once the initial hurdles have been overcome, the possibilities that come from cross-disciplinary collaboration, where different approaches and perspectives meet, have the potential to lift the end-product to a much higher level. 

Jacob Eric Nielsen, co-founder at Cortrium, shares his experiences as a company partner in the REAFEL project. “Cortrium was in 2017 a small med-tech company, where we have developed smart wearable devices for healthcare. Our aim in the project was to acquire the CE-mark and further develop the technology for hearth rhythm monitoring of patients that enables the physician to diagnose arrhythmias”, Jacob Eric Nielsen says. 
He continues, “During the project period, we successfully developed the monitoring device, and got it certified for medical use, which is not a small feat. Another just as important result for us, are the connections that we have made with our potential customer segment. I.e. the hospitals and GPs, on the one hand, and a research institution that educates candidates, which are relevant for us as an employer, on the other. Having a close dialogue with such entities makes a huge difference for a company like ours. We have been very happy to participate in the project”. 

Chief Physician Helena Dominguez concurs, “Working together with other professions is very rewarding. It brings new perspectives to your own work and procedures, which is stimulating. It is also a great learning opportunity. We for example find it inspiring how DTU has set up a framework to promote creativity and entrepreneurship among their staff”. 
The involved project partners all wish to continue their collaboration in future projects. An obvious next step in continuation of the REAFEL project is connecting the results obtained so far in a closer manner, for example an integration of the mCardia patient-focused technology with the C3 device and use the algorithm developed in the project for automatic detection of atrial fibrillation. 


REAFEL (Reaching the Frail Elderly Patient for optimizing diagnosis of atrial fibrillation)

The REAFEL project is part of Copenhagen Center for Health Technology (CACHET)

Read more about the project: https://www.cachet.dk/research/research_projects/REAFEL

Funding: REAFEL is funded by a grant from Innovation Fund Denmark.

The project was made up of four main sub-projects:

  1. Develop and CE-mark the Cortrium C3 device for monitoring heart rhythm (Main responsible: Cortrium)
  2. Develop an algorithm to detect and predict abnormal heart rhythm (Main responsible: DTU Health Tech)
  3. Develop the mCardia system and its underlying software platform for collecting contextual data to understand and give insights into the whereabouts and activities of the patients (Main responsible: DTU Health Tech)
  4. Develop the clinical setup that will permit the GPs, who already knows the patient, to stay as the primary caretaker in relation to heart diseases. The setup includes easy access for the GPs to consults with the cardiologists, who can access the patient's ECG recording for review directly (Main responsible: Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital)



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