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Virtual twin technology enabling post-COVID transformation of healthcare sector

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Steve Levine, Sr Director, Virtual Human Twin & Founder, Living Heart Project, Dassault Systemes highlights that virtual healthcare services are on the rise and traditional healthcare providers are forging long-term partnerships with technology companies to procure the necessary infrastructure and expertise

The global healthcare sector is strengthening as it rises above the challenges brought by the COVID-19. However, the massive impact of the pandemic has left it reshaped and now driven by the new opportunities it revealed. Paving the road ahead, India’s healthcare sector has embraced digital technologies swiftly, elevating the overall human experiences, and reimagining how procedures are best performed. Virtual healthcare services are on the rise and traditional healthcare providers are forging long-term partnerships with technology companies to procure the necessary infrastructure and expertise. While the Indian healthcare sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors, many infrastructure challenges remain for example 0.5 hospital beds per 1000 people1 compared to approximately 3 globally. Further, other stumbling blocks in caregiving are widening the gap between patients and healthcare providers as well as between socioeconomic classes.

In 2020, the global digital health market was valued at $96.5 billion and is expected to reach nearly $300 billion in 2028, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.1 per cent2. The pandemic has accelerated numerous healthcare trends, especially those related to sustainability, environment, and public health. Pre-pandemic shifts in consumer preferences fuelled the rapid proliferation of cutting-edge healthcare and care delivery models, sparking clinical innovations that continue to influence the healthcare sector in India. From artificial intelligence (AI), Internet-of-Medical-Things (IoMT), to predictive analytics and extended reality, technology has taken the centre stage by offering quick care management, real-time access to patient history, and remote patient monitoring.

However, the global crisis has also brought a data explosion, privacy concerns and the systematic question of knowing when faster is truly better. Virtual twin technology has emerged as an ideal tool to address these issues, promising to revolutionise the whole sector as it has elsewhere such as the automotive industry. From more cost efficient research, to predictable production and precise patient care, cloud based virtual twins offer many critical technical advantages while facilitating extended collaborations. Over the past few years, common goals forged teamwork which made it possible for India to produce vaccines in a few months’ time, that would typically take more than a decade. The challenge now is to sustain these operational gains and use them open up new avenues for the entire healthcare sector while using these robust, virtualisation tools to promote their sustainability goals.

The concept of the virtual twin is not new, but healthcare has been wary of borrowing technology from its engineering counterparts. Life is complex, holding unsolved mysteries which limits the ability to standardise as we can with mechanical processes. Yet virtual twins create a methodology to systematically capture what has been learned, creating reference systems for continually raising the quality and consistency of care. From these foundations, individual patient variations from DNA to vital organs can be more effectively managed. It is therefore imperative to have human models that have been calibrated to real-world insights. This is not an isolated task. Understanding the complexities of the human body, good or bad, benign or malign, requires bringing together numerous aspects of scientific and medical domains.

Dassault Systemes, recognising this need offered its 3DEXPERIENCE platform to the Living Heart Project, a global collaboration to develop a reference virtual twin of the human heart, enlisting now more than 135 organizations across research, industry and clinical practice. Its technological and societal success is now accelerating the creation of virtual twin experience of the human body, based on data-driven models necessary for efficient healthcare systems. It offers a robust platform where modelling, simulation, information intelligence as well as collaboration is enabled to advance the understanding of the human body. With the help of virtual twins, it is now possible to visualise, test, and predict surgical outcomes or how a drug will affect the body. Interactive virtualisation of organs like the brain and heart are now helping healthcare providers, researchers, and academia to virtually test a range of surgical alternatives, or scenarios and decode the safest route available. For example, Lucid Implants, a Pune based start-up, is manufacturing personalized Craniomaxillofacial (CMF) and neurosurgical implants on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform using 3D pre-surgical simulations, customized anatomical models for evidence-based mock surgical evaluation, intra-operative patient-specific surgical guides for surgical precision, and personalized implants for perfect fitment.

Virtual Twins also bring much-needed clarity, precision, and consistency to today’s incomplete medical records. Combined, they tell a more complete story of disease and treatment enabling powerful tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver more reliable analytics. Indian start-up BrainSight AI has successfully conducted clinical trials of their automated analysis of numerous neurological ailments using data hidden in medical images. With Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) stored in the cloud, useful and timely diagnosis and treatment becomes accessible to everyone, increasingly those high-risk patients or otherwise who must or choose to remain at home.

With 2021 already behind us, COVID-19’s impact has only begun to set in. Of all the industries that have been disrupted by the global pandemic, the healthcare sector has already transformed the most and there is much more to come. With cutting-edge innovations in technology now able to serve the healthcare industry, it is evolving in novel ways bringing more cost effective, precise and widely available care. As we move towards the future, emerging tech trends in healthcare will continue to improve the quality and efficiency of care, by reshaping processes and leading the way for new innovations. From decreasing uncertainty in individual care to reducing errors due to staff fatigue and improvements in patient education, the Indian healthcare sector is making significant strides towards a consistently high quality patient-centric care available for everyone.

References:

1 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.MED.BEDS.ZS

2 https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/digital-health-market

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