The power of massive, intelligent, digital twins

Supply chain and facility capacity breakdowns due to COVID-19 spurred the rapid adoption of digital twins that can monitor, simulate and streamline data from devices. Growing investments in digital twin technologies (e.g. IoT, data streaming, 5G) are introducing a new generation of intelligence and opportunities to help people: The mirrored world. Healthcare leaders are connecting massive networks of intelligent digital twins to create living models of facilities, supply chains, medical products—even body parts and organs. Digital twins provide answers to key questions that will soon be essential to every healthcare enterprise’s digital strategy. A quarter of healthcare executives report their organisations are experimenting with digital twins this year.

With digital twins, you can model the physical world in a digital format. Digital twins can gather, visualise and contextualise data from across their physical assets and products, bridging their physical operations and digital capabilities. On the clinical side, digital twins can model future scenarios, such as surgical simulations, or help with medical education, research and care delivery. On the care process side, digital twins can help improve operational efficiency. They can optimise scheduling or identify bottlenecks in workflows. By dynamically responding to real-time information and future scenarios, the digital twin can help design and simulate these scenarios long before constructing or changing a physical process, procedure or facility.

The mirrored world will allow healthcare leaders to bring data and intelligence together at unprecedented scales; ask and answer big-picture questions critical to their survival; and reimagine how they operate, collaborate and innovate.


of healthcare executives expect their organisation’s investment in intelligent digital twins to increase over the next three years.

Fortify: Unleash the power of data

To begin to prepare for the mirrored world, healthcare digital twins need to pull data from objects, people and physical spaces. As everything becomes “smart,” it all becomes part of the digital twin environment. Healthcare organisations first need a strong and comprehensive data foundation to access the organisational insights and greater agility the mirrored world promises. Few have put in the effort and investment to ensure data is generated, captured, managed and reused consistently at scale. Success will require a strategy for real-time data collection—whether investing in sensors and IoT devices to collect data, or the tools to prepare, analyse and visualise the massive amounts of information gathered through data streaming. And the data must be of good quality.

Incomplete or incorrect data will lead to false conclusions—which is especially risky in healthcare. High-quality historic data is critical for intelligent twins as it is how they monitor real-time machine performance, build models of healthcare user behavior to help design custom services and more. But COVID-19 has made historic data increasingly unreliable because machine learning models learn based on what’s “normal.” Last year was anything but. Every organisation will need to check and correct models as sudden or widespread changes occur.

Digital twins offer a risk-free playground to explore innovations, strategise for many possible futures and test limitless "what-if" scenarios.

Extend: A risk-free playground for innovation

Intelligent twins have powerful simulation capabilities that—with the right data foundation in place—can help healthcare organisations reimagine innovation processes. Digital twins offer a risk-free playground to explore innovations, strategise for many possible futures and test limitless “what-if” scenarios.

Digital twins can connect the right data, the right AI models and human workers to explore possibilities, futures and strategies in a safe place. Imagine the possibilities when it comes to surgical training and simulation of medical devices and treatments. Digital twins that mirror the heart, for example, and allow clinicians and machines to work together to pre-simulate optimal therapies and even avoid unnecessary interventions.

While some healthcare organisations are experimenting with simulation today, they aren’t doing it at scale. These capabilities will only become more valuable as using multiple twins in fully mirrored environments lends tremendous power to create innovations that help people.

Reinvent: Build the big picture

Healthcare organisations do not operate in a vacuum; they rely on supply chain partners, digital collaborators and even the government. Gaining big picture visibility means reflecting what goes on outside of your own four walls. It’s about mirroring what is inside—as well as outside—your organisation. In fact, 87% of healthcare executives say digital twins are becoming essential to their organisation’s ability to collaborate in strategic ecosystem partnerships.

Some are pursuing twin-enabled visibility with select partners. Soon, the organisations building intelligent twins will be able to interact and collaborate within mirror environments in ways that organisations without twins will simply not be able to access.

These early examples foreshadow the mirrored world’s coming role. Healthcare has an important opportunity to not only be part of it, but also lead the way. As more healthcare organisations digitise their physical operations and systems with intelligent twins, they will be able to share designs, information and insights easily across silos and across ecosystems, virtually test innovations and deliver care in ways that were not possible before.

Decision points

Fortify: Is the organisation prepared for the Mirrored World?
Create a solid data foundation by auditing your data practices. Evaluate the tools and technologies you are using and deconstruct data silos. Digital twins will need a healthy data “supply chain” to be effective, so look for ways to capture data through IoT and build streaming analytics capabilities.

Extend: How can digital twins transform your innovation process?
Develop a list of key use cases for where digital twins will generate the most impact for people and for your organisation. What are the clinical and operational opportunities to use digital twins to drive innovation and breakthroughs?

Reinvent: How will your organisation engage wider ecosystems of digital twins?
Design digital twins from the outset with the intent to share them with the ecosystem. Make application programming interface strategy a priority and build a short list of potential digital twin-driven partnerships.

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