Dr Noureddine Boujnah

Insight Health: How Digital Twin technology will advance healthcare

Submitted on Thursday, 09/05/2024

Dr Noureddine Boujnah, Insight at DCU

A Digital Twin, a digital replica of the physical world, combines many technologies such as telecommunication, artificial intelligence, sensors and using feedback from systems to achieve goals. A Digital Twin is a harmonised system of systems with significant implications for the healthcare sector.

Telemedicine, initially present in rural areas before COVID-19, has experienced a substantial surge and metamorphosis in healthcare delivery since the pandemic’s onset. What was once a niche service has now become widely adopted and transformed medical care globally. Its utilisation skyrocketed during the pandemic’s peak and has since become entrenched in medical practice, offering a broad spectrum of services. Notably, in Australia, telemedicine has gained immense popularity due to its versatility and accessibility, revolutionising how healthcare is accessed and delivered nationwide.

Future telemedicine communication systems will include artificial intelligence and sensors generating data.

Digital Twin (DT) technology in the healthcare sector has various applications including; patient treatment and post-treatment, resources and assets management and optimisation, doctors and nurses training using AR/VR, critical medical interventions, proactive prediction of healthcare emergencies and pandemics using collected data from medical and non-medical sensors.

DT will be endowed with a high level of operational autonomy and enhance networking between patients, doctors and healthcare managers and decision makers, with a human-in-the-loop concept to support critical decisions or interventions taken by the digital twin. The DT in healthcare will rely on good physics-based models and realistic spatiotemporal data massively collected from sensors.

Physics-based models include 3D building models, mobility and gait models and spatial-temporal propagation models of pollutants and viruses. Data driven based models will employ data collected from sensors to perform tasks such as forecasting and classification.

All models will be integrated in a private cloud and the DT will be interfaced to healthcare staff, sensors and other digital twins.

The digital twin technology will improve the healthcare sector by connecting hospitals, patients, decision makers by collecting environmental data related to human health, helping doctors to monitor their patients through real data analysis using AI models.

There are challenges to be overcome for next generation systems to thrive. To solve existing issues in mobile networks related to low performance, a new technology is proposed every ten years, now the 5G technology (the fifth generation of mobile network)  is deployed in many regions and it offers both communication and sensing to customers with an improved data rate, low latency (delay) and high reliability. Moreover, energy consumption, privacy and security are always challenging for any new communication technology, pushing all stakeholders in the field of communication to maintain a mutual and strong constructive collaboration.

From the technical point of view, the future communication system will involve Sensing, Localisation and Communication (SLC)  using shared resources to reduce deployment cost and to make available a plethora of services and applications, such as those described for healthcare.

The digital twin benefits from the development of advanced cloud architectures and services, artificial intelligence and is highly linked to the SLC paradigm.

SLC will link the digital twin to its environment in a harmonised fashion, and it will be involved in data preprocessing and analysis to interact with potential users and decision makers.

Migrating some mobile services to the digital twin, using a sophisticated SLC approach and deploying near-real time data analysis and decisions will place the digital twin in the top ranking of future technologies and the centre of interest of researchers from various disciplines and companies.

It is expected digital twin technology will advance healthcare by supporting healthcare providers, patients and decision makers in the collection, analysis and communication of data related to human health.

The intensive deployment of SLC techniques by a digital twin directs our focus as researchers to  advance next generation 6G systems, which support this technology.

Simultaneous Sensing, Localisation and Communication will revolutionise next generation technology together with the deployment and acceleration of the digital twin technology. Constructive collaboration between researchers, standardisation bodies, decision makers and industries is required to unlock all benefits of this technology.