Can Digital Twins Lead To A Dramatic Improvement In Healthcare?
I’ve written in the past about Digital Twins on the blog, but interest in this area is soaring at present. Typically the solutions have been industrial-engine manufacturers using sensors to monitor engine performance or building plant managers overseeing intelligent buildings by using a twin. However, it is becoming increasingly common to see medical solutions exploring how digital twins can improve monitoring and solutions.
A recent edition of Venture Beat is focused on this subject. They found dozens of individual examples where healthcare could be improved through the use of digital twins.
I have been talking about remote health monitoring for a long time, in particular since Google acquired Fitbit. The opportunities for healthcare providers to start offering proactive medicine that monitors and helps patients, rather than waiting for a health problem to develop, are really exciting.
But how are digital twins specifically influencing healthcare?
Here are some of the most exciting examples featured in the Venture Beat focus:
- Heart twins: patients with heart problems that have a monitor or pacemaker fitted can transmit data back to a system that has already captured a digital version of their heart. This allows cardiologists to closely monitor any change in heart performance and any deterioration can be easily detected
- Symptom tracking: Babylon Health has created a symptom tracker that can create a default twin that is then compared in real-time to data from a Fitbit or Apple Watch. It works with data such as health histories, a mood tracker, symptom tracker, and automatic capture from fitness devices. The digital twin can provide basic front-line information or help guide priorities and interactions with doctors to address more severe or persistent conditions
- Hospital twins: Siemens has been exploring how to model and improve entire hospital departments. They are using workflow analysis, system redesign, and process improvement methodologies – for example, to reduce the time required to treat stroke patients
- Customer Service: the TigerGraph database system tracks data from over 200 sources to create a complete health history of a patient when they contact their insurance company. This model helps the insurance company to offer the best possible advice and makes service faster and more accurate
- Device twins: hospitals are filled with complex equipment and Philips makes a large amount of the imaging devices we see in modern hospitals. They have started using digital twins of all their major hospital-based systems so they can improve maintenance and increase system availability
These are just a few examples. The concept of digital twins is simple to understand, but as is becoming clear from all these healthcare examples, the opportunity to apply these ideas is now moving far beyond the classic engineering case studies.
Proactive healthcare is still in its infancy. Millions of consumers are now using complex sensors, such as the Fitbit and Apple Watch, but industries such as health insurance are only just beginning to see that investment in proactive monitoring can reduce their costs in the long term by improving health outcomes. The use of digital twins in healthcare is exciting, but will it eventually result in complete digital copies of our entire body? You might be getting a warning from your digital twin every time you drink a beer in the future!
Also, discover how Covid-19 gives a dramatic boost to digital twins.