Starting your own human digital twin project

Hospitals and healthcare facilities are increasingly discovering the value of digital twin technology in providing more personalized care.

But where should you start?

“You can start very simply,” said Dr. Mohamed Rehman, professor of anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in response to a question during his keynote session: “Human Digital Twin: Improving the health of our patients and employees.”

“Say you have a group of nurses, you can just track the heart rate and then the steps. And then create an individualized twin and a group twin. That’s all you have to do. (Later) you can scale up.”

In his presentation, Dr. Rehman their digital twin study that monitored patients’ post-surgery conditions and the mental well-being of healthcare workers. Their goal is to achieve two paradigm shifts using real-time data analytics: the transition from herd medicine to precision medicine and the transition from treatment to prevention.

“If we develop an individualized (digital twin) model for each patient, we can intervene as soon as we detect that the patient is entering that (disease trajectory),” he said, highlighting the benefits of a digital twin.

The digital twin can indeed be applied to monitor different conditions. “We could do this for sickle cell disease, we could do this for seizures, we could do this for diabetes.”

“But we need to develop better algorithms,” he emphasized.

Unlike the past decade, healthcare systems today process a lot of data. “Data in itself is useless. If you take the data, clean it and turn it into information, knowledge and algorithms – that is where the power of data lies. Algorithms (are) what is going to make our data powerful,” said Dr Rehman.

Nevertheless, he also said, organizations looking to launch their digital twin projects “don’t need sophisticated algorithms.” “They are still coming,” he assured. “(Digital twins) are able to enhance the learning process so that it gets better and better over time.”

Dr. Rehman further advised: “You don’t need to have a digital twin with a terabyte of data. You can scale it up slowly.”