How Hackensack creates 'digital twins' of patients

Edison, N.J.-based Hackensack Meridian Health is working to create "digital twins" of patients to predict how they might respond to medical treatments, NJBIZ reported Nov. 13.

"The combination of the rise in wearables — which can constantly track a person's vital signs among other data — combined with individuals' genetic information, their electronic medical record and the potential of artificial intelligence, means that we're beginning to be able to construct 'digital twins,' first of an individual's organs and eventually a digital simulation of the entire person," Charles Binkley, MD, director of bioethics and a general surgeon at Hackensack Meridian Health, told the news outlet. "This means that, prior to performing a medical procedure or even prescribing drugs, we can model the potential effects on their digital equivalent to help determine the best course of action."

But before the use of this technology is widespread, the healthcare industry will have to address the ethical concerns at play, according to the story. It will have to be secure and private, and represent all patients, not just those who own wearables or seek care at health systems. "Digital twins" could also strain the environment because of all the computing power and electricity required.

The potential, however, is immense. "Eventually, we should be able to create a digital clone of a person that can be updated throughout their lifetime," Dr. Binkley told NJBIZ.

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