David Garrido Jaén; Helios de Rosario Martínez; Laura Martínez Gómez; Carlos Atienza Vicente
Instituto de Biomecánica de Valencia
Universitat Politècnica de València
Edificio 9C. Camino de Vera s/n
(46022) Valencia. Spain
Launched in 2020, the main objective of the IBERUS project is to create a new strategy for network cooperation in research, development and innovation in the healthcare sector.
The project, led by the Instituto de Biomecánica (IBV), has also benefited from the participation of three other Spanish technology centers: CTIC, which specializes in cutting-edge technologies and Artificial Intelligence, ITCL, a benchmark center in Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, electronic design and embedded systems applied to digital healthcare, and TEKNIKER, which specializes in Advanced Manufacturing, Surface Engineering, Product Engineering and ICTs.
The aim of this project is to strengthen the scientific and technological excellence of the cluster at both the national and international level, as well as its capabilities and assets in the field of BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, thus reinforcing and encouraging the processes by which knowledge is transferred to the Spanish industrial fabric.
Under the name IBERUS, the 4 Technology Centers (TC) that make up this Network of Excellence have defined a Strategic Programme with the aim of stimulating the healthcare sector, both in terms of research and development activities, and in the business and clinical context. This project has made it possible to create permanent collaboration structures between the centers that make up the network, given that they have focused their efforts on digital transformation in the field of neurodegenerative disease assessment and rehabilitation.
Figure 1. Key competences and R&D lines led by IBERUS members
This field of action has been chosen as the pivotal element of IBERUS' research activity specifically due to two strategic principles: (i) the alignment and complementarity of the key technologies of the TC with the research and development trends in this area, and (ii) the prospect of promoting a major technological leap in clinical practice within this field, thanks to the integration and transfer of results to healthcare companies and institutions.
From a social and healthcare perspective, diseases of the neuromusculoskeletal (NMS) system generate a very significant demand at both the clinical and the social level, due to the fact that their symptoms require continuous care and monitoring. In addition to the challenge posed by these diseases in themselves, demographic ageing has exacerbated their prevalence and social cost. In fact, some 2% of the Spanish population suffers from one of these diseases, resulting in an average direct cost to patients and families of more than €20,000 per year (Fig. 1). It is estimated that these figures could increase fourfold in the next 50 years.
Figure 2. Cost of neurodegenerative diseases in Spain (SINC 2016)
One of the great difficulties faced by healthcare professionals in relation to these pathologies and syndromes is how to diagnose them when they appear in older people, mainly due to the masking effect associated with ageing itself. This poses an added challenge for professionals when it comes to identifying, treating and monitoring affected individuals using current assessment and monitoring procedures.
In this regard, the irruption of new registration technologies in the field of healthcare is leading to a transformation in care models, given that they are facilitating the early identification of the changes and alterations that precede NMS diseases.
Thus, the IBERUS project aims to build on existing knowledge in this field by promoting the development of new technologies that offer the possibility of objectively registering continuous patient information in non-hospital settings, identifying and segmenting the level of risk in order to provide early and personalized intervention. Thus, technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), ICT tools and the latest advances in biomechanics, all of which are able to help professionals in when it comes to decision-making, are the key elements and indeed the backbone of the IBERUS project.
INNOVATION OBJETIVES OF THE IBERUS PROJECT
The project launched by the IBERUS Network of Excellence springs from a highly ambitious vocation and a clearly defined vision of promoting innovative healthcare models that make it possible to transform the current one, based on resource-intensive care aimed at the treatment of pathologies, into a more sustainable and effective model centered on prevention and the continuous assessment of patient needs as its mainstay.
In this sense, it is clear that the deployment of these new care models requires the generation of a new body of knowledge, supported by technologies that allow healthcare professionals to gain access to previously unpublished data which, in combination with current clinical record data, will make it possible to provide a more precise explanation of a person’s state of health, as well as its evolution over time. This will favor the implementation of specific and individual solutions for each patient's needs.
The IBERUS project has therefore been structured on various lines of work that are unequivocally aimed at achieving this important objective. The Network of Excellence faces numerous major challenges, including:
- The development of new procedures for assessing the health of people in non-specialized environments (home, residences, outdoors, work environment), through the evaluation of the performance of daily life activities and interactions with the environment.
- The development of new non-intrusive health monitoring and surveillance technologies and applications for the early detection of NMS diseases.
- The generation of new sets of personal data that can be exploited for research purposes, enabling patients and companies in the healthcare sector to develop more advanced products and services adapted to their needs.
- The generation of new procedures to treat the most common NMS complaints and to improve the quality of life of patients.
- The development of new and more efficient therapeutic concepts that allow for a more rational use of healthcare resources, with special emphasis on the application of robotic systems.
- The definition of new innovative solutions based on AI to predict patient evolution.
Figure 3. Challenges and objectives on which the IBERUS Network of Excellence is focused
As explained above, the IBERUS network is committed to the dissemination and transfer of the knowledge it generates among the main stakeholders in the healthcare sector (patient associations, healthcare professionals, technologists, researchers and companies). For this reason, a range of actions have been planned throughout the project, aimed at maximizing the impact on the Spanish healthcare sector. These are some of the most important ones:
- The generation of new business opportunities through collaborations with companies, technology centers and universities, by mobilizing projects at both the national and international level.
- Scientific production and its dissemination at specialized events.
- The development of new doctoral and postgraduate training content, especially aimed at healthcare professionals.
- The creation of new job opportunities with high added value, fostering social integration and equal opportunities.
- The organization of events designed to communicate and disseminate information to the main stakeholders in the healthcare sector.
RESULTS OF THE PROJECT
As a result of the research activity carried out in the IBERUS project, and with the collaboration of clinical professionals from all over Spain, a map of technological opportunities for the prevention, early detection and rehabilitation of strokes has been defined. On the basis of this work, led by the IBV, the consortium will develop demonstrators based on clinical and out-of-hospital monitoring devices and techniques and employing innovative technologies and Artificial Intelligence, to help in the process of diagnosing, treating and rehabilitating patients suffering from the disease.
The technologies that are being researched by the centers include innovative systems for measuring human movements such as MOVE 4D, portable and low-cost systems for detecting activity, posture and physiological signals, and the combination of Edge and Cloud Computing techniques and hardware, using different neural network models to process information.
Project funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation through the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), under the 2021 State Budget and the Plan for Recovery, Transformation and Resilience.