Anna McCowan, Software Manager at Keysight Technologies

AI is impacting every aspect of our lives, and the healthcare industry is no exception.

With digital transformation a perennial focus for the sector, AI is increasingly being adopted to accelerate and enhance initiatives. From cost reduction to improved disease detection to personalized medicine, there are a wealth of benefits that the technology is unlocking, including supercharging digital twins.

Digital Twins and Healthcare

Digital twins have been around for several decades and are used extensively in the manufacturing and aerospace & defense sectors. The healthcare industry has started to integrate technology in the quest to model and improve outcomes. This will see the digital twin healthcare market grow rapidly at a CAGR of 32.7% from 2023 to 2030, reaching $2.6 billion.

A digital twin creates a virtual replication of a system, product, or person that is used to run simulations, analysis, and monitoring. In healthcare, the technology provides a pathway for doctors to improve outcomes and save lives. In addition, the emulation can help optimize operations and deliver efficiency gains.

AI-Driven Digital Twins

AI can quickly ingest vast data volumes, identify patterns, and then predict potential results. With the technology, digital twins are able to run multiple simulations by analyzing an array of data streams in real-time, providing forensic predictive insights that were not possible before. In healthcare, this presents a multitude of benefits, including the ability to proactively intervene to prevent a patient’s health from declining. Let’s explore some of the ways the combination of technologies are reshaping healthcare.

1)    Enhanced Personalized Medicine

With AI and digital twins, virtual patients are created that enable personalized healthcare and treatment plans for the individual’s specific situation. This is achieved by analyzing data streams, including lifestyle, genetics, physiological traits, and other individual characteristics, to understand and predict healthcare risks and create tailored plans. Multiple approaches can be tested on the patient twin to help doctors determine the most effective treatment for the specific individual. This will end the era of one-size-fits-most in medicine, ushering in personalized and preventative healthcare as standard.

Once a patient is discharged, the AI simulation still has an important role to play in continuously monitoring the individual’s health and helping them take preventative steps to reduce any side effects or the disease returning.

2)    Earlier & Improved Disease Detection

Evaluating numerous data streams helps clinicians understand and detect disease much earlier than is currently possible. For example, an AI-powered digital twin can find patterns in data that indicate an individual is predisposed to breast cancer far sooner than traditional MRI scans. Predictive oncology will fundamentally change cancer care with earlier detection, less treatment, and improved outcomes.

3)    Accelerating Drug Development

The digital simulation enables organizations to create virtual patients and test drugs thoroughly under various situations before moving to a human trial. For example, by modeling patients and devices, intelligent virtual clinical trials accelerate drug development by identifying issues earlier in the process, improving efficacy, and reducing costs.

Oklahoma State developed a digital twin to enhance drug delivery using models of simulated lungs, which identified that around 80% of many drugs failed to reach their target. With the simulation, they reworked the drug characteristics to improve the delivery efficiency to 90%.

4)    Streamline Operations

It’s not just about improving healthcare and treatment; there are significant business benefits with AI-driven digital twins. The intelligent emulation provides insights into how to improve operations, such as optimizing staff utilization and ensuring bed shortages become a thing of the past. The information enables better and quicker decision-making, delivering efficiency gains. For example, preventive maintenance ensures downtime is limited and reduces costs.

5)    Put Individuals in the Driving Seat

In addition to the healthcare industry benefiting from integrating intelligent digital twins; as the technology is increasingly adopted, it will empower individuals to understand and have more control over their health. Ultimately, everyone will have their own personal digital twin providing recommendations on how to prevent disease. This information will enable consumers to take a much more active role in their health by modifying their behaviors to reduce their health risks.

Personalized and Preventative Healthcare

With AI, the potential benefits of tapping into digital twin technologies in healthcare are significant. As the intelligent models become more pervasive, disease detection and diagnosis will be enhanced, patient outcomes improved, and resource utilization optimized. AI-driven digital twins have the potential to make predictive and therapeutic health a reality for all.

Anna McCowan is a software manager at Keysight Technologies who joined the company as a technician in the wafer lab. Anna brings a wealth of technical knowledge from her bachelor’s degree in physics from Sonoma State University. She is a published technical writer who is passionate about educating others on the remarkable innovations in software technology, always striving to bring light to the advances in her field.