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Digital twins for healthcare: Articulating their value through a deeper understanding of the patient journey

Akshay Chaudhari, Ph.D., Analyst and Nardev Ramanathan, Ph.D., Senior Analyst
September 23, 2021

Digital twins have seen commercial applications in manufacturing, engineering, energy, and various other industries, with varying degrees of success in value creation, cost reduction, and efficiency improvement. We see three potential avenues for digital twins in the healthcare industry: digital twins for patients, medical devices or systems, or healthcare provider operations. The healthcare industry is starting to explore digital twin use cases by realizing the value of running "what-if" scenarios to optimize hospital operations and improve the patient experience. However, building a high-fidelity digital twin requires accurate models and data from various sources, which is still challenging in biological systems. Though there has been some effort toward building digital twins of patients and medical devices, it is still a work in progress. Here, we explore the real-world example of Mater Private Hospital in Ireland partnering with Siemens Healthineers to create a digital twin of its radiology operations. We employ Lux's three-step methodology as discussed in our recent report "Seeking New Business Opportunities by Identifying Gaps in the Patient Journey" (Figure 1).

Mater Private Hospital is considered one of Ireland's leading institutions for radiology and cardiac care. Being the country's leading center for these services places an immense burden on the hospital to meet the growing patient demand. Furthermore, other factors, such as increasing clinical complexity, aging infrastructure, and lack of space, have created additional challenges that have made it increasingly difficult to deliver efficient patient care.

The hospital recognized the opportunity to solve these challenges through a partnership with Siemens Healthineers by creating a digital twin of the radiology department. The partnership team built a representation of current radiology operations and also reviewed current layouts to identify potential improvements. The digital twin representation allowed the hospital to run different scenarios, identify the best use of resources, and stress-test the physical layout. Improvements that have typically taken months or years through trial and error can now be made in a matter of days.

Figure diagraming Lux's three step methodology for developing holistic solutions for healthcare patients

Figure 1: Three-step methodology for developing holistic solutions for patients. Mater Private Hospital's leadership identified growing operational challenges that impacted the patient experience along the patient journey. Patients seeking radiology services (Step 1 – gaps in seeking professional advice and getting diagnosed) were facing delays in accessing those services in a timely manner (Step 2 – healthcare access challenge), which impacted the patient experience. Mater's leadership explored new technologies and paradigms and identified digital twins as a solution that could address these issues. Mater decided to explore a partnership model (Step 3 – exploring options) with Siemens Healthineers, a major medical device company developing digital twin solutions for healthcare use cases.

Some of the improvements brought about by Mater Private's digital twin include:

  • A reduction in patient wait time by an average of 13 minutes for CT scans and 25 minutes for MRIs.
  • Faster patient turnaround (time between the arrival and departure of a patient), which was reduced to 28 minutes for CT scans and 34 minutes for MRIs.
  • Increased equipment utilization, with MRI usage increasing by 32% and CT usage increasing by 26%.
  • Reduced overhead costs by around 50 minutes less MRI overtime pay per day

 

Lux Take

Digital twins, while historically linked to asset-intensive industries, can also find applications in healthcare. By taking an agnostic view of "best-fit" technologies that do not necessarily stem from the healthcare industry, Mater Private Hospital's leadership was able to apply out-of-the-box thinking to pilot new approaches from outside the healthcare industry. The key was understanding the challenges being experienced by patients and hospital staff and finding a solution. Creating a digital twin within a healthcare setting represents a break from established care paradigms, yet it is already paying dividends for Mater Private Hospital. Clients looking for ways to penetrate the healthcare industry should note how new and emerging technological paradigms from the manufacturing sector, such as digital twins, can provide tangible outcomes in healthcare settings. Understanding key challenges in the healthcare industry, especially from the patient's perspective, will allow for a more holistic and sustainable solution, not just for the patients but also for the providers.

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