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Digital Transformation in Healthcare IV

Digital Twins Deployed to Optimize the Aerosol Deposition of Medications. CBBL simulated the aerosol particles’ movement through a digital twin of an adult’s upper airway. The team then varied parameters like the diameters of the particles, inhalation flow rates and the initial locations of the medication within the aerosol. The researchers eventually optimized the medical aerosol to have a delivery efficiency over 90 percent. Image credit: Oklahoma State University’s Computational Biofluidics and Biomechanics Laboratory (CBBL)

3. Personalised Healthcare / Digital Twins

At the same time as we progress in the human genome understanding and learn to use it for personal healthcare we are seeing companies like GE and Philips (watch the clip) that are investing in the creation of person’s digital twins as a way to support personalised medicine.

Notice that digital twins are already used to model processes, equipment and even hospitals but here we are looking at their use in the context of patients (more generally of people in a proactive medicine perspective).

Digital Twins in personal healthcare are seen by classic healthcare industry (GE, Philips, Siemens, Nokia,…) as a way to capitalise on data that are accrued through their equipment fostering improved quality in healthcare and decreasing cost. They are also seen, although you get this by reading between the lines or speaking with some of their strategists –off the record- as a way to defend themselves from the attack that is, will be, coming from companies that thrive on data and that see Digital Twins as a way to capitalise their data and enter into the healthcare space. Google and Apple are at the forefront of these new breed of companies, with other already mentioned, like 23andMe, also trying to capitalise on their data availability.

It is most likely that for the first part of the coming decade there will not be a clear winner (in the fight between the “incumbents” and the “data companies”) but that the players will cause an acceleration of the adoption of digital twins.

An important aspect is the expected evolution of Digital Twins to stage 4, a point where a Digital Twin may act as an autonomous system and start to roam the cyberspace leveraging both data and services to provide customised health guide to its physical twin. We are not that far from this, a few signs are already visible (the Apple Watch 5 is a step along this path although on a very tiny segment in healthcare). By the middle of the next decade the consensus of the team working on this White Paper is that Digital Twins in health care will become autonomous systems supporting advanced personalised cure.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.