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Research Group Dr. J. Knitza

Digital Health & Healthcare Research

Head: Dr. med. Johannes Knitza

The increasing demand and low number of rheumatologists poses significant challenges to rheumatology care. Months of diagnostic delay cause irreversible damage and significantly reduce treatment efficacy. With an average of four short appointments per year, patient monitoring and patient communication is severely limited. Likewise, comorbidites often remain undiagnosed and untreated. The current "one size fits all" and "trial and error" approach to therapy frustrates patients and practitioners alike and further limits treatment outcomes.

The focus of the working group is to explore these rheumatology care challenges and to overcome them by means of a digitized patient care pathway, which will enable more efficient, faster, personalized patient care and increase treatment quality. Classical analog processes are to be supplemented to result in a blended care approach.

Translational research is conducted in close collaboration with patients, international research partners, practicing physicians, industry and innovative startups. We explore, develop and implement patient-oriented new digital health applications to improve current care deficits in rheumatology.

We thank our patients, our whole team and PhD students. Without you, our research would not be possible.

  • Digital Health for Diagnostic Support

Due to scarce human resources and rare diagnoses, symptom checkers and other diagnostic decision support systems (DDSS) are particularly relevant in rheumatology and represent an alternative to frequently consulted internet search engines. We are continuously developing and testing appropriate systems. We are also investigating the potential digital pre-appointment management (symptom checkers, digital questionnaires, videoconsultation, capillary self-sampling for independent blood sampling at home) and establishment of a clinic lead by medical students.  Students can thus be actively involved in treatment, relieve medical staff, accelerate diagnosis and increase the quality of treatment.

  • Telemedicine-supported monitoring and digital patient education

Due to limited personnel resources, we see our patients on average four times a year and this patchy, snapshot approach resembles a black box. We are exploring flexible telemedical care concepts, e.g. for patients with spondylarthritis, in which patients send us electronic questionnaires and self-collected capillary blood asynchronously from their homes. These findings are then discussed, and if the findings are unremarkable and patients are fine, on-site appointments can be canceled, freeing up resources for new patients. We are also investigating new wearable-based objective biomarkers and developing digital applications to better educate patients.

  • Exploring new digital therapy approaches

The ubiquity of smartphones is opening up new therapeutic opportunities. Through the Digital Health Care Act (DVG), it is now possible to prescribe Digital Health Applications (DiGA) to patients. In particular, comorbidities such as chronic pain, depression, obesity can already be addressed.  Digitally assisted physical and occupational therapy or home exercises allow scalable delivery of established treatments. Through structured data collection "deep phenotyping" clinical decision support systems (CDS) can be trained using machine learning to enable predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory (P4 Medicine) medicine.

  • Status quo and quo vadis: Continuous market, user, usage and demand research

The accelerated and constant transformation of digital health applications, the healthcare system, the technical infrastructure and society requires continuous scientific evaluation to identify care deficits and innovative solutions. Online surveys, interviews and focus groups allow us to investigate the acceptance, use, individual needs, and digital competence of patients and physicians with regard to digital health.

[Translate to en:]

Johannes KnitzaGroup Leader

Jacob Mohn   

medical doctorate candidate
Franziska Fuchsmedical doctorate candidate
Antonia Lambrechtmedical doctorate candidate
Markus Gräfmedical doctorate candidate
Joshua Zarblmedical doctorate candidate
Franziska GanzerMaster student in Medical Process Management
Lena JanousekMaster student in Computer Science
Caroline Schmetzermedical doctorate candidate


EIT Health

2022 - 2024  „DigiPrevent – Personalised prevention and very early treatment of rheumatoid arthritis”


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

2022 - 2025 „PANDORA - Pathways triggering Auto- immuNity and Defining Onset of early Rheumatoid Arthritis; Translationale Arthritis-Datenbank, die klinische und Grundlagenforschung miteinander vernetzt“

FUTUR Bonusprogramm Forschungs- und Technologietransfer Universität Regensburg

2019 - 2022  „bETTeR – Evaluation of Triage Tools in Rheumatology, a multicenter clinical trial”


Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)

2018 - 2019  „praktische Anatomie - Einführungskurs Ultraschall des Bewegungsapparates“



Kooperationsprojekte mit den Firmen:        

  • Novartis Deutschland GmbH
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • AbbVie Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG
  • Sanofi Genzyme
  • UCB Pharma GmbH
  • Siemens Healthineers AG

[Translate to en:]

1. Knitza J, Muehlensiepen F, Ignatyev Y, Fuchs F, Mohn J, Simon D, Kleyer A, Fagni F, Boeltz S, Morf H, Bergmann C, Labinsky H, Vorbrüggen W, Ramming A, Distler JHW, Bartz-Bazzanella P, Vuillerme N, Schett G, Welcker M, Hueber AJ. Patient’s Perception of Digital Symptom Assessment Technologies in Rheumatology: Results From a Multicentre Study. Frontiers in Public Health. 2022;10.

2. Mucke J, Knitza J, Muehlensiepen F, Grahammer M, Stenzel R, Simon D, Kleyer A, Krönke G, Sharp C, Bendzuck G, Korinth M, Elling-Audersch C, Vuillerme N, Schett G, Pecher A-C, Krusche M. TELERA—Asynchronous TELEmedicine for Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis: Study Protocol for a Prospective, Multi-Center, Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Medicine. 2021;8:2590.

3. Mühlensiepen F, Kurkowski S, Krusche M, Mucke J, Prill R, Heinze M, Welcker M, Schulze-Koops H, Vuillerme N, Schett G, Knitza J. Digital Health Transition in Rheumatology: A Qualitative Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(5).

4. Knitza J, Mohn J, Bergmann C, Kampylafka E, Hagen M, Bohr D, Morf H, Araujo E, Englbrecht M, Simon D, Kleyer A, Meinderink T, Vorbrüggen W, von der Decken CB, Kleinert S, Ramming A, Distler JHW, Vuillerme N, Fricker A, Bartz-Bazzanella P, Schett G, Hueber AJ, Welcker M. Accuracy, patient-perceived usability, and acceptance of two symptom checkers (Ada and Rheport) in rheumatology: interim results from a randomized controlled crossover trial. Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2021 Apr 13;23(1):112.

5. Knitza J, Tascilar K, Gruber E, Kaletta H, Hagen M, Liphardt A-M, Schenker H, Krusche M, Wacker J, Kleyer A, Simon D, Vuillerme N, Schett G, Hueber AJ. Accuracy and usability of a diagnostic decision support system in the diagnosis of three representative rheumatic diseases: a randomized controlled trial among medical students. Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2021 Sep 6;23(1):233.

6. Lambrecht A, Vuillerme N, Raab C, Simon D, Messner E-M, Hagen M, Bayat S, Kleyer A, Aubourg T, Schett G, Hueber A, Knitza J. Quality of a Supporting Mobile App for Rheumatic Patients: Patient-Based Assessment Using the User Version of the Mobile Application Scale (uMARS). Front Med (Lausanne). 2021;8:715345.

7. Knitza J, Kleyer A, Klüppel M, Krauser M, Wacker J, Schett G, Simon D. [Online ultrasound learning modules in rheumatology : Innovative elective course increases student interest in the discipline of rheumatology]. Z Rheumatol. 2020 Apr;79(3):276–9.

8. Knitza J, Tascilar K, Messner E-M, Meyer M, Vossen D, Pulla A, Bosch P, Kittler J, Kleyer A, Sewerin P, Mucke J, Haase I, Simon D, Krusche M. German Mobile Apps in Rheumatology: Review and Analysis Using the Mobile Application Rating Scale (MARS). JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2019 Aug 5;7(8):e14991.

9. Knitza J, Simon D, Lambrecht A, Raab C, Tascilar K, Hagen M, Kleyer A, Bayat S, Derungs A, Amft O, Schett G, Hueber AJ. Mobile Health Usage, Preferences, Barriers, and eHealth Literacy in Rheumatology: Patient Survey Study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 2020 Aug 12;8(8):e19661.

10. Knitza J, Callhoff J, Chehab G, Hueber A, Kiltz U, Kleyer A, Krusche M, Simon D, Specker C, Schneider M, Voormann A, Welcker M, Richter JG. [Position paper of the commission on digital rheumatology of the German Society of Rheumatology: tasks, targets and perspectives for a modern rheumatology]. Z Rheumatol. 2020 Aug;79(6):562–9.


PubMed Publikationsliste von Dr. med. Johannes Knitza (


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