Digital Twins in Healthcare – A New Era of Innovation for Businesses

Dileep Gupta April 26, 2024
Digital twins in healthcare

Digital twins are just some of the new technologies that are quickly transforming the healthcare sector. These virtual copies are essential aspects of ensuring better practices in the healthcare industry, benefiting medical organizations and patient care. In particular, digital twins in healthcare were estimated to be worth about $1.6 billion in 2023. Experts in this industry expect significant growth in 2028, when the market will be worth over $21.1 billion. The phenomenal exponential growth year after year is truly an amazing feat­.

Moreover, it has been discovered that around 66% of healthcare executives intend to increase their investment in healthcare robots within the three-year time frame. Such faith in the ability of digital twins is clear proof of what amazing benefits these cutting-edge technologies bring to patient care and operational management.

It should be noted that this trend is not just temporary but an absolute change in the technological influence in the field of health management. This article will explore the importance of digital twins in healthcare, highlighting the benefits, possibilities, and challenges.

Digital twin in healthcare

Understanding Digital Twins in Healthcare

Digital Twins in healthcare are the computer representations of a system, from patients to hospitals and everything in between, both physical entities and processes. The digital counterparts incorporate electronic health records (EHRs), disease registries, and omics data, including proteomic, genomic, metabolomic, and bionic data, plus demographic and lifestyle information for each person.

The introduction of new technologies underpinned by IoT and AI, coupled with the widespread availability of multidimensional data, including behavioral, biometric, cognitive, emotional, and psychological information, has significantly contributed to a surge in the exploration and usefulness of digital twins.

With full utilization, digital twins for healthcare can provide the breakthrough pattern for our future management of lifestyle, health, wellness, and chronic diseases. For example, these virtual models may keep getting updated with data from wearable devices, mobile health apps, and other forms of self-reported data. This would give healthcare providers insights they are not confidential to yet, which will be instrumental in the development of accurate treatment guidelines and personalized advice.

According to Liu., digital twins in healthcare operate in multiple stages. As a result, complicated modeling techniques and tools are used in building DT models. Health IoT and mobile internet technologies facilitate real-time data connectivity and exchange between physical and virtual entities.

This entails subjecting simulation models to rigorous testing and validation as well as progressive refinement of digital twin copies. The long-term objective for digital twins in patient care is to develop a customized patient plan that is modified after each measuring, scanning, or examination, reflecting behavioral and genetic data.

Advantages of Digital Twins Technology in Healthcare

The usage of digital twins in healthcare is widespread. It can even create a digital model of the human body. With that said, here are some key advantages associated with the implementation of digital twins for healthcare:

Benefits of Digital Twins in Healthcare

Enhanced Patient Care

A doctor could simulate treatments for the patient using their digital twin, helping in making important decisions before carrying out treatments physically on the person. Such an approach is aimed at making procedures safer while raising the standard of care.

Predictive Maintenance

Digital twins could be used for predicting failure scenarios and performing predictive maintenance of key medical devices in the context of healthcare. This will enable healthcare providers to track device performance continuously in order to foresee any breakdowns that would otherwise occur during crucial medical work processes.

Augmented Training and Education

The digital twins will become an important platform for enhancing the training and educational activities of medical and nursing students as well as other healthcare workers. It gives the learners an interactive platform that helps them understand sophisticated surgery processes and human body conditions.

Research and Development

Digital twining serves as an important instrument in the course of medical investigations. These virtual replicas act as platforms for carrying out a host of research experiments and probing into the intricacies surrounding genetic disorders. This can go a long way in transforming healthcare approaches and medical treatment procedures, especially for rare and complex cases.

Optimization of Healthcare Systems

Digital twins help healthcare facilities pinpoint operational inefficiencies and bottlenecks in their systems. Through this proactive analysis, managers can maximize resources, thus enhancing patient flow and service delivery.

Also Read: Top Healthcare Trends That Will Redefine The Industry in 2023

Use Cases of Digital Twins in Healthcare

The digital twin applications in healthcare cover a multitude of areas within patient care and hospital/medical services. The use of digital twins is becoming increasingly popular, and this section identifies important applications that help improve medical services and patient care.

Digital Twins Applications in Healthcare

Clinical Trials and Drug Discovery

The use cases of digital twins in healthcare present a novel way of dealing with the ethics and logistic problems that surround the conduct of clinical trials and the development of drugs. These virtual models simulate complicated biological processes and responses of the human body.

Researchers can use these models for extensive testing of possible treatments and pharma compounds. It speeds up the trial process while reducing risks from conventional human or animal trials, making drug development approaches safer and quicker.

Patient Remote Monitoring

Digital twins have become an invaluable tool for monitoring the patient’s well-being at a remote distance and providing appropriate care or treatment for patients. Such capability is especially useful for people living in remote areas, as well as those who have mobility difficulties. In other words, with these virtual versions, doctors can always check live data to find out if there are any deviations from the normal in order to take timely measures and implement a preventive approach in medicine.

Customized Medicine

Digital twin in medicine is one of the most advanced approaches to patient care. Through the exploitation of a lot of patient-specific information, these digital replicas are used for determining a personalized mode of treatment that takes into account one’s unique health conditions, genetics, way of life, and particular medical requirements.

This approach is individualized and ensures high treatment efficiency and reduced risk for the appearance of adverse reactions or ineffective measures. It contributes to the gain the positive results and the improved quality of life for patients.

Surgery Planning

The digital twins implementation in Healthcare has an essential role in revolutionizing surgical planning and readiness. Through creating fine 3D models of the particular anatomical structure of individual patients, healthcare professionals will be able to precisely imagine and perform virtual surgical procedures, foreseeing and minimizing difficulties and maximizing surgical plans. Such detailed pre-operative planning is helpful in reducing complications, shortening operating times, increasing surgical accuracies, as well as leading to better postsurgical recuperation.

Epidemic Management

Digital twins can help control the spread of a pandemic like Covid-19. Since these technologies have all kinds of data, including social gathering places, population density, the number of healthcare facilities, and more, they can help medical professionals make informed decisions.

Medical professionals can use this data to analyze the various factors that influence the spread of the disease and take proactive measures to control the potential spread of infectious diseases by adjusting different parameters.

Prosthetics and Implants

The development and fitting of prosthetics and implants to individual patients with special anatomical needs presents a new approach that utilizes digital twins to ensure optimal fit and functionality.

For example, by making digital duplicates of patients’ injured body parts, healthcare professionals will design prosthetics and implants that are highly accurate in relation to each patient’s specific anatomical structures, ensuring the patient’s comfort and mobility. These digital representations can also be applied to simulate post-procedure movements and rehabilitation exercises, which helps physiotherapists prescribe personalized rehabilitation programs to speed up recovery and improve patient’s lives.

Medical Device Development

Digital twining in medical device development provides complete virtual testing and research. Developers can evaluate the effects of design variations, test different operating conditions, and foresee possible malfunctions before proceeding with the fabrication of actual units by building virtual facsimiles of medical instruments.

This proactive approach is cost-effective and risk-reducing for product failures in healthcare. Also, it shortens the time to the market of these life-saving products. Digital twins implementation in healthcare allows developers to deliver safe and high-performing devices compliant with strict safety standards that ensure improved patient care and healthcare outcomes.

Also Read: A Complete Guide to Healthcare Compliances

Hospital Operations

The use of digital twining in hospital operations facilitates the development of virtual versions that can be used to assess and optimize different elements of health care administration. Hospital managers can use digital twins to evaluate their resources’ effectiveness to improve bed management, staff scheduling, and operation room utilization. Optimized resource utilization strengthens the hospital’s performance and the staff’s work, thereby cutting operation costs.

In addition, the features of the digital twin technology in healthcare provide a safe ground for assessing the effects of changes on systems’ performance and make possible the adoption of preventive measures in the hospital environment. Hospitals can simulate possible operating conditions to make advanced plans for risk prevention.

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Real-World Examples of Digital Twins in Healthcare

Here are two real-world examples of digital twins in healthcare, showing the new approaches through which this technology is transforming patient care and healthcare administration.

1. Babylon Digital Twin for E-medical Records

Babylon Digital Twin is the leading platform that helps individuals see the whole picture of their medical records and other health information. Employing advanced AI technology coupled with sophisticated deep learning techniques, the system provides essential information regarding organ status and diseases’ predisposing factors.

Currently, the platform focuses on only 20 diseases, but its expansion to capture more than 80 diseases is anticipated in the future. Babylon’s Digital Twin confirms the increasing role of individual health data that enables people to stay on top of their health and well-being.

2.  Hospital Ward Management Digital Twin at Mater Hospital Dublin

Mater Hospital Dublin is an example of the transformative nature of digital twinning in healthcare in enhancing the smooth functioning of hospitals and healthcare facilities. Mater Hospital Dublin utilized 3D digital replicas to critically evaluate its daily ward operations with the aim of improving the radiology department. As a result, a significant reduction in patient wait time for critical CT and MRI scans marked a real improvement in patient experience under the digital twin initiative.

The integration of workflow-simulated digital twins at the Mater Hospital led to a decrease of about 240 minutes in the wait time for CT or MRI scans. Such optimization contributed to shorter patient turnaround times, resulting in the increase of MRI scan and CT scan capacities by 32% and 26%, respectively.

Challenges of Adopting DIghital Twin Technology in Healthcare

Digital twinning in healthcare presents several challenges that must be addressed with caution on implementation at every step. Here are some of the key challenges:

Challenges of Digital Twin in Healthcare

Data Security and Privacy Concerns

Digital twinning in healthcare uses large quantities of sensitive health information. Hence, such data should be secured from any breach or unapproved access. Data encryption is essential if patient confidentiality is to be upheld; it is required under both compliances HIPAA in the US and GDPR in Europe.

Data Accuracy and Completeness

Accuracy and completeness in data input are one of the main issues concerning digital twins. In order to get a complete and accurate medical history, genetic information, lifestyle factors, and even real-time health data gathered, one must be very careful about details. This involves a sophisticated data collection system.

Interoperability Challenges

This is one important problem with linking, comparing, and mixing up health data from different sources without interoperability. It promotes data interoperability and, therefore, standardizes data formats and harmonizes other data systems to exchange accurate and timely data between different healthcare platforms.

Scaling Implementation

Digital twins for health applications will confront a number of unique scaling problems from the pilot phase to widespread adoption in various health service environments. The healthcare digital twins pose key questions on how to manage data integration complications, comply with existing regulatory mechanisms, and require standard practices and approaches. In order to fully realize the maximum benefits of digital twins in healthcare, it is mandatory to create collaborative partnerships and a culture that embraces innovation and flexibility.

Also Read: How can digital twin technology help your business grow?

The Future of Healthcare

Digital twins can potentially revolutionize the many dimensions of patient care, healthcare operations, and research. The adoption of digital twins in healthcare will bring a major transformation in the communities and change how patient care is delivered.

As revealed in the Twindex report, over half of the respondents believe that digital twins will gain more acceptance in health facilities within the subsequent six years. Moreover, almost half of the respondents, 52%, predict that within the next three years, there will be widespread use of digital twinning technology in healthcare and the life sciences industry.

You may like reading: Will Blockchain Revolutionize Healthcare? The Truth or A Hype

Let Appinventiv Be Your Partner in Digital Twin Adoption

The development of digital twins in healthcare is a game-changing technology that can transform how patients are cared for while enhancing operational effectiveness and various other processes.

A significant example of this tech trend is YouCOMM, a multipurpose patient portal that enables in-hospital patients to access nurses on demand for their simple requests. It involves patient messaging through the manual selection of voice commands or head gestures. The use of digital twin technology in healthcare in such areas can improve the delivery of patient care and streamline healthcare delivery.

If the innovative approach of YouCOMM inspires you and you want to build similar solutions, our healthcare mobile app development services are for you. We have a highly committed team that designs and develops customized healthcare products that match the changing healthcare demands. Allow us to be your companion on the road toward leveraging the power of digital twins in healthcare.

Let’s Connect

FAQs

Q. What is the digital twin concept in healthcare?

A. A digital twin technology in healthcare creates digital representations of real things or processes, such as patients, organs, and whole hospital environments. The process is done with the help of other modern technology like IoT and AI.

Q. What is an example of digital twinning in healthcare?

Q. An instance of digital twin technology in healthcare is the building of a digital duplicate of a patient’s body, which includes health data, lifestyle data, and real-time tracking data. This virtual mirror helps forecast and control health problems, provides personalized treatment programs, and delivers preventive healthcare measures.

Q. What are the uses of digital twins in healthcare?

A. Healthcare digital twins have various uses, such as simulated patient treatment, doctors’ training, optimization of the health system, maintenance of medical instrumentation, and research and development in medicine. The other purpose they serve is better surgery planning and disease modeling, hence better epidemic administration.

THE AUTHOR
Dileep Gupta
DIRECTOR & CO-FOUNDER
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