Helping bridge
China’s gap in
stroke care

In China, every year 3.5 million people have a stroke. By 2030, this annual number is expected to increase to 5 million. The Chinese healthcare system is hard-pressed to offer much-needed rehabilitation to those affected. A digital solution could help to close the treatment gap.

Impaired speech, paralysis and vision problems — these are among the symptoms of a stroke, one of the world’s most common causes of physical disabilities. Besides immediate basic treatment, prompt and consistent rehabilitation is needed to successfully help patients recover from a stroke as quickly and comprehensively as possible.

Among big nations, there is a notable shortage of rehabilitation options in China, including a shortage of well-trained specialists. Only 11.5 percent of patients receive the appropriate follow-up treatment in the first weeks following a stroke, and 42 percent undergo no rehabilitation at all. That’s in stark contrast to Germany, for example, where 85 percent of stroke patients start rehab therapy immediately.

To provide follow-up treatment after a stroke as a standard procedure for patients in China, and to train skilled workers, Boehringer Ingelheim in 2018 established a rehabilitation center in Shanghai in collaboration with the Shanghai International Medical Center (SIMC). An additional center is currently being built in Chengdu.

An AI-enabled solution, for in-home use

“When it comes to stroke follow-up care in China, there is a huge gap between the needs of the patients and what healthcare providers are capable of offering,” says Yi Yang, a medical technician and software engineer at Boehringer Ingelheim. “We needed an innovative digital solution that will help patients receive rehabilitation services and support online.”

Mr. Yang is the product owner for Consanas Cloud, an app for post-stroke digital rehabilitation. “With the app, rehab programs have become available at home.”

Suitable for people who have suffered a mild to moderately severe stroke, Consanas Cloud enables users to carry out rehab programs in physiotherapy, ergotherapy, speech and cognitive therapy.

Human interaction also plays an important role in the digital service. A doctor evaluates the patient’s condition remotely using the app in combination with a smartphone camera — and with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). “The app recognizes the position of joints in the body, or targets the hands,” explains Eddie Cai, who is the solution lead and is overseeing the market introduction of the app.

Boehringer Ingelheim developed the AI algorithm in cooperation with the DAMO Academy, the innovation lab of the Alibaba Group, whose cloud services the app also uses.

Tailored therapies

After an initial assessment, the doctor uses the app to design a therapy regime with the appropriate exercises. Patients can choose from a variety of packages, based on whether they want to have one or more personal consultations during the course of their rehab.

AI also supports patients with their exercises. The algorithm that recognizes the position of joints also monitors specified movements during physical therapy. “The app,” Mr. Cai explains, “counts the repetitions, checks whether the movements are being carried out properly, corrects them if necessary and motivates the patients.”

Consanas Cloud initially made the physiotherapy functions available to patients in December 2022; digital speech rehabilitation and cognitive therapy will follow over the course of 2023. Boehringer Ingelheim approached many aspects of the new digital therapy service in innovative ways. This resulted in the first cross-functional co-creation in China between the Health Care Solutions business of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Human Pharma division, and BI X, the digital innovation lab of Boehringer Ingelheim.

Boehringer Ingelheim is also taking a brand-new marketing approach to promote Consanas Cloud. “We are building a completely new sales and marketing team over here that focuses exclusively on digital solutions,” says Dr. Johannes Floeckner, Head of BI X in Shanghai. “This is the first time that Boehringer Ingelheim has established a business unit specifically to offer a digital solution to patients.”

Facts about strokes

12 million

Every year, more than 12 million people around the world suffer a stroke.

Though great progress has been made with treatment in recent decades, strokes are still one of the most common causes of physical disabilities as well as intellectual and psychological impairments.

A stroke is caused by an ischemic obstruction in the brain. Both the likelihood of death and the probability of developing a permanent disability following a stroke depend on the type of stroke suffered.

Types of stroke

Ischemic stroke

More than 80 percent of all strokes are known as ischemic, meaning there has been a brain infarct — death of brain tissue — due to a lack of blood circulation. There are three types of triggers: arteriosclerotic changes in the main arteries that transport blood to the brain; changes in the smaller and smallest blood vessels in the brain itself; or thrombi (clots) that enter brain vessels with the blood and cause obstructions.

Hemorrhagic stroke

Bleeding in the brain occurs in other cases, which doctors refer to as hemorrhagic strokes. Here, blood escapes from a burst vessel. The bleeding can be intracerebral — directly in the brain — or subarachnoidal, close to the brain between the cerebral membranes.

Recognizing Symptoms

The FAST test

The FAST test makes it possible to quickly and easily test for indicators if a stroke is suspected.


Can the person smile? A sagging corner of the mouth indicates hemiplegia (paralysis).


Can the person stretch out his or her arms and turn the hands upward? A paralyzed person is unable to do this.


Can the person repeat a simple sentence? If the speech is slurred or unclear, there is probably a speech impairment.


A stroke is always an emergency — the quicker it is treated, the greater the chances of recovery.

If there is the slightest suspicion of a stroke, an ambulance must be called immediately.

Stroke Care