How Digital Twin Technology Is Disrupting Healthcare


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Digital twin technology is widely used in the manufacturing, energy, automotive, and aerospace industries. However, recently digital twin technology has begun to transform the healthcare sector as well. Digital twins are being used to drastically change the way healthcare professionals organize hospitals, use medical devices, diagnose illnesses and develop complicated surgeries.

Making use of a digital twin in healthcare can provide administrators, scientists, researchers, and surgeons with exact replicas of hospital grounds, medical equipment, and even the human body itself. The possibilities that digital twins open up for the healthcare industry are unparalleled. In partnership with 3D technology industry leaders like 3DS, healthcare professionals are discovering that digital twins can improve the efficiency of medical procedures, facilities, and equipment and enable the provision of higher standards of patient care.

What is digital twin technology?

A digital twin is a computer-generated 3D model that is an exact replica of an object in the real world. A digital twin can be made of a building, a piece of equipment, or even a human body. Digital twins are incredibly complex virtual representations of physical objects.

Digital Twin Concept of Grieves and Vickers
First published figure to illustrate the Digital Twin model concept of Grieves and Vickers (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Digital twins are often used in manufacturing and product design as virtual prototypes. They enable more innovation during the testing phase of product development, increase the lifespan of products, reduce waste, and ensure optimum final results. While the use of digital twins is commonplace in these industries, health digital twins (HDT) are a relatively new occurrence.

How digital twins are transforming healthcare

In the healthcare sector, digital twins are being used to replicate medical facilities and equipment as well as patients themselves. This powerful new technology is helping stakeholders to design better forms of treatment and develop more enhanced methods of providing patient care.

Once a digital twin has been mapped and created, doctors, scientists, and engineers can use real-time data to test how a physical entity may react to different stimuli, therapies, medications, or structural changes.

Current uses of digital twin technology in healthcare include

  • Enhanced administration – By creating a digital twin representation of a healthcare facility, administrators can better plan bed occupancy rates. This can ensure that the facility always has enough available capacity and that patients always receive the best allocation of resources. Administrators can make sure that personnel is scheduled in the most effective and efficient manner.
  • Improved surgical treatments – With a digital twin, surgeons can test new procedures without endangering the well-being of a patient. Digital twin technology can replace a particular organ or the person as a whole and provide real-time, accurate data that reacts dynamically to any external stimuli. With this technology, doctors can develop innovative new techniques to maximize patient outcomes and minimize harm.
  • Personalized medical solutions – Creating a digital twin that mimics a person’s complete genetic makeup exactly allows for the development of truly personalized medical treatments. A digital twin can be designed to incorporate a person’s individual medical history and unique genetic makeup. While traditional medical research uses large-scale data models, digital twins can be used to provide highly precise medical care.
  • Better utilization of medical devices – All medical facilities contain a wide range of complex devices, equipment, and machinery that must be kept in perfect condition. Digital twins provide valuable insights into how medical equipment such as imaging devices, respirators, monitoring devices, and so on can be best maintained. Highly complex medical devices such as precision tools and robotics can be more efficiently monitored so as to avoid breakdowns or the need for repairs. Surgical tools can be developed and tested in a wide range of functions without putting patients at risk.
  • More effective pharmaceuticals – Developing new treatments often requires an innovative combination of drugs. Digital twins can provide pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals with invaluable data into how a drug, or a combination of drugs, may affect a patient.

Future benefits of digital twin technology for healthcare

As advances in 3D modeling software make digital twin technology ever more precise, the benefits for the healthcare industry are set to increase exponentially. Doctors, researchers, and scientists will be able to study treatments and diseases in an in-depth manner that is more precise than it would be if using a physical specimen.

Labor costs can be reduced as staff and equipment are used in a more efficient manner. Research projects can be conducted for less money and without any risk to patients’ health. Also, more effective treatments and drugs can be developed at far less cost.

As the pace of digital transformation in the healthcare industry accelerates, digital twin technology is sure to result in new methods of diagnosing and treating diseases. It is no exaggeration to say that the future potential of digital twin technology in the healthcare sector is simply staggering.

YouTube: Developing Digital Twins for Medical Devices (NVIDIA)

Photo credit: The feature image is symbolic and has been done by Sergey Nivens. The infographic in the body of the article is from Wikimedia Commons.

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