Life Sciences & HealthcareFebruary 18, 2021

A new healthcare reference

Virtual twins of humans are a catalyst to achieving personalized medicine
Avatar Patrick Johnson

Improving human health relies on gaining new levels of understanding of the human body. Nearly 50 years after the dawn of the digital revolution, the power of the virtual world is now reaching the realms of biology and medicine with the objective of delivering personalized treatments, cures and patient care.

The promises of personalized medicine are numerous and very ambitious: therapeutics tailored to target a specific disease for a specific patient, surgery and interventions designed to fit their specific anatomy, devices and prosthesis engineered or printed on demand.

Personalized medicine is about smarter treatments for individuals. Healthcare is a lifelong matter; we stand in the age of multiple, targeted experiences of medical practices that evolve and vary as we age. We are now getting closer to personalized healthcare, thanks to the rise of virtual twins: a holistic and integrative representation all facets of an individual’s health that, over time, is tuned by observations and measurements performed in the real world, also factoring in that person’s medical history and environmental exposures.

For more than 40 years, digital mockups and virtual twins have profoundly transformed the industrial world of engineering and production, revolutionizing how manufacturing companies in aerospace, automotive and shipbuilding design, optimize and produce complex products. Now, those same deep scientific and technological disruptions are being applied to the living world, creating an integrative reference of personal health information for citizens, patients, cohorts and health systems.

As our understanding of human biology, physiology, biomechanics and pharmacology improves, virtual twins will become more precise, predictable and usable 

As our understanding of human biology, physiology, biomechanics and pharmacology improves, virtual twins will become more precise, predictable and usable with modeling, simulation and information intelligence allowing common understanding between professionals, enabling an easy way to run “what if” scenarios and leading to precision medical decisions. Many therapeutic areas (cardiology, neurology, orthopedics, pulmonary systems) are already starting to showcase these major innovations, with patients being treated in unique and unprecedented ways.

The virtual twin paradigm represents a new approach to combatting complexity, connecting knowledge and know-how from various disciplines and enabling new levels of medical collaboration and practices. Indeed, more then ever, modern healthcare needs to rely on cooperation between many fragmented therapeutic domains and siloed medical expertises. In its current state, it fails to entirely capture the patient condition as a whole, with a person’s complete diseases and treatments history. Care teams have limited means to share information, and research discoveries rarely fully connect with observational insights from bedside care. By going beyond document-based heterogeneous health records, virtual twins intend to address these challenges, by offering a 360-degree experiential view of a patient’s health and finally enabling true collaboration within the medical community. This has the potential to evolve practitioners’ standard of care practices (precision and personalized surgery, medicine, prevention) but also to radically streamline patients’ journeys, which are today the suboptimal result of many disconnected segments.

These advancements deliver on the promise of patient-centric digital health and have the power to transform all aspects of the current healthcare system. By providing a 360-degree view of a person’s condition, virtual twins’ ambition is to be the catalyst of a fundamental societal shift: from a document-based, fragmented health records practice to an experiential, integrative and collaborative care practice; from one size-fits-all medicine to precision medicine; from siloed segments of a patient journey to a “follow the citizen” / continuous health journey; and from a cure-oriented approach to a care-oriented, citizen health-centered and prevention-based approach.

Patrick Johnson is Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy & Research, Dassault Systèmes

Discover more about the promise of virtual twins in revolutionizing healthcare.

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