Thu, 11 Oct 2018
Digital Twins act as a digital replica for the physical object or service they represent, providing monitoring and evaluation without being in close proximity. Digital Twins are able to provide a secure environment for testing the impact of changes on a systems performance. By distorting reality with system dynamics through machine, process or living body, problems can be predicted if and when they occur, with time to implement necessary changes or procedures. This will enable optimal solutions and risk reduction which is particularly important in the health sector.
Smart machines are more advanced than humans at accurately and consistently gathering and communicating data. This enables any inefficiencies and issues to be spotted quickly in order to save time, money and lives. Digital twins are actively playing a crucial role in both hospital design and patient care.
By creating a Digital Twin of a hospital, operational strategies, capacities, staffing and care models can be observed to determine what actions to take. Virtual models can assist in bed shortages, spreading of germs, staff schedules and operating rooms. These will help to optimize patient care, cost and performance. Digital Twins can virtualize the hospital in order to create a safe environment, which tests the influences of changes on system performance without risks. This is hugely important in healthcare as it enables informed strategic decisions to take place in a highly complex and sensitive environment.
Digital Twin technology can also be used for modelling an individual’s genomic makeup, physiological characteristics, and lifestyle to create personalized medicine. It has a more individual focus than precision medicine which typically focuses on sample groups within the population. Developing a Digital Twin of a human body consists of a more advanced process than any product of engineering. Sensors can efficiently provide data to a Digital Twin of any engineered object, but data derived from individuals typically comes from expensive time-consuming tasks, such as blood tests and scans.
Digital Twins have not yet developed sufficiently to analyse the human body in its entirety, but progressions have been made. An example comes from software company ‘Dassault’ who released ‘Living Heart’, which is the first realistic virtual model of a human organ accounting for blood flow, mechanics and electricity. The software is capable of turning a 2D scan of a human into an accurate full dimensional model of an individual’s heart. Capturing the human body will have multiple benefits for doctors such as; discovering undeveloped illnesses, experimenting with treatments, and improving preparation for surgeries. Body parts such as the brain however are far more complex than the heart. France based start-up ‘Sim&Cure’ have made advances in assisting medical researchers’ treatment of brains while developing a patient digital for treating aneurysms.
One of the leading factors restricting market growth for Digital Twins in healthcare is the systems sensitivity to hacking and viruses. Hackers can potentially gain access to highly private and valuable data. To address this issue developers must take care to observe any ethical issues raised by different parties interacting with the data, such as customers and partners. It’s essential they consider the data in terms of its value and contribution to the business, particularly with personal medical records.
When doctors and researchers show an interest in Digital Twins, it’s significant they are taught and given the appropriate resources. Capacity development is essential for individuals and organizations to obtain so they can achieve the necessary skills, knowledge, tools and resources to competently use Digital Twin technology.