Frank-Peter Klein President & CEO
Frank-Peter Klein President & CEO, Schwarzer Cardiotek
Schwarzer Cardiotek GmbH develops, produces and distributes hemodynamic and electrophysiological measurement systems, as well as data management solutions for the interventional cardiology field.
Due to the aging population, care providers face a rapidly increasing number of patients with heart rhythm disorders, most of which (90%) are exhibiting atrial fibrillation (afib). Limited lab capacity, limited lab space, complex diagnostic challenges, and a variety of possible therapies that are partially competing and partially complementary represent the care providers’ daily challenges. As a quality leader in this field, Schwarzer Cardiotek strives to augment its diagnostic capabilities and develop intelligent algorithms that inform and support physicians, reduce the risk of complications, and improve efficiency in the labs.
Schwarzer Cardiotek (Heilbronn, Germany & Maastricht, the Netherlands) is a pioneer in developing systems for functional diagnostics and therapy during electrophysiology (EP) lab cases. The company’s key solution, EP-TRACER, is an EP recording and analysis system used to acquire, filter, digitize, amplify, display, analyze and record signals obtained during electrophysiological studies and related procedures. “The EP-TRACER system as well as the software version “EP-TRACER 2” is CE-tested and FDA 510(k) approved. It is sold in Europe, Central and South America, the USA, Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa. There are more than 1,000 systems in use worldwide,” eludicates Frank-Peter Klein, President & CEO, Schwarzer Cardiotek. It has by far the smallest footprint of any system in the global market, and its portable version can even be hand-carried on a plane. “We have received several governmental grants to add innovative features to the system over the past 2 years, such as smart filtering algorithms or intelligent feedback from the RF ablator during ablation procedures.”
The company recognized two years ago that the EP-TRACER 2 system is perfectly suited to also support HIS-Bundle Pacer implantations. Its fully integrated stimulator can be used in addition to the programmer unit while the clinician is implanting a pacemaker. It is important to display at the same time morphology of the 12-leadSurface-ECG during stimulation and the HIS signals, which is what EP-TRACER 2 HBP does. “A key feature for our clients is the option to split the screen into real-time display and trigger mode display, a comfortable way to superimpose consecutive beats,” says Klein. “The key advantage of our EP-TRACER platform has always been its outstanding signal quality. To keep this advantage, we focus on research and development also with partners.” Just recently, the company received a government grant to develop a noise filtering algorithm utilizing artificial intelligence. Electrophysiology procedures can be impaired by interfering noise created from adjacent devices in the EP lab environment. Schwarzer Cardiotek will create an algorithm using artificial intelligence to detect such interferences in its signals. “We are proud to also have included EP-TRACER as core element of a number of very innovative projects, aiming at remote robotics to address the need in rural geographies of North America where no specialist is available onsite or in another project aiming at the discovery of the root cause of arrhythmia disease in neurological patterns,” adds Klein.
Klein discussing an exciting case study talks about popular clinician Dr. Josep Brugada, Professor at the University of Barcelona, cardiologist and electrophysiologist in the Arrhythmia Unit at Clínic Hospital and Pediatric Arrhythmia Unit in Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona or Dr. Tom de Potter, Associate Director at Cardiovascular Center at OLV Aalst, Belgium. “Dr. Josep Brugada’s need was to work with an excellent system that is mobile at the same time. With the EP-TRACER Portable he has found a fully portable system without compromising on quality. He can work with it in Spain and on humanitarian missions abroad,” adds the steadfast leader.
The company also offers a Smart Keyboard allowing for intuitive operation during the examination and offering the advantages of a digital display with a traditional keyboard’s haptic response. “Our clients are used to work with mouse and ASCII Keyboards, often with specific short-key combinations which enable quick and easy access to important functions during a procedure,” says Klein. “With the Smart Keyboard we took this concept one level further and created dedicated, programmable keys for most commonly used functions, such as stimulator start/ stop, activation of specific stimulation protocols (Wenckebach), and specific display arrangements via intuitive icons and a single key stroke.” As such, the Smart Keyboard further enhances the system’s intuitive graphical user interface and mouse-controlled features. It also increases flexibility for the users as they can operate the system via Smart Keyboard from remote, potentially while they are dealing with the patient at the same time.
“Our system acquired an excellent reputation in professional circles in Europe and has been praised by key opinion leaders. We want to deepen this reputation within the countries where we already sell the systems,” says Klein. For the days to come, the company wants to concentrate on Electrophysiology—a $3 billion global market growing at nearly 10% annually—particularly the US market offers high revenue opportunities simply because of its immense size. “We will focus on this market in the future and welcome partners to join us on this exciting path. We have already increased our service staff last year so it is no secret that we will intensify our service offerings.
This will happen not only through an increase in our staff but also through digital solutions like remote maintenance and remote trainings,” he says.