Healthcare in 2025: Get ready for the 'digital health twin'

Rapid technology advancement and adoption during the pandemic and consumer expectations will shape healthcare delivery over the next five years.

Tom Andriola, vice chancellor of IT and data at UC Irvine, shares his bold prediction about what healthcare will look like in 2025.

Tom Andriola: We've been talking about healthcare becoming a digital industry for over a decade now, but the evidence points for transforming are still limited in impact, scale and equity. I have seen the pandemic put on steroids many of the current trends for technology and data-infused intelligence, a.k.a, AI or as I like to call it for healthcare 'augmented intelligence.'

What we will see in five years, and I want to see it for every citizen not just those in the upper income bracket or employer-sponsored insurance, is that all this deployed technology and the digital signals (data) it generates is actually integrated in a way that it helps me manage my health, medical condition and health journey. Let's not call it precision medicine; let's think of it more as personalization of my health journey.

Let's start with me as a patient no longer having to endure explaining to my healthcare provider who I am and my past history every time I visit. Why is Amazon a threat? Because they know more about my health and lifestyle than my healthcare provider, and most of what they know I've provided to them (imagine that Doc). How about adopting their mentality and allowing me to help build a 'digital health twin' infused with data from many different sources provided by my health provider, my insurer and, most importantly, by myself. Let's ensure that there is an integrated view of my state of health, and there are tools at my fingertips that help me make good choices and plot a health trajectory based on my goals.

In 2025, I should be in control of my data. My digital health twin should constantly be updated, like a profile leveraging all the amazing technologies in our world, both medical grade when I visit the 'formal healthcare system' and consumer-grade, which may be a ring on my finger or a hand I placed on a scanner when I'm leaving Whole Foods (by the way, those two grades may be hard to distinguish by 2025; entrepreneurs are ensuring that). I don't just 'want my data;' I want it organized and leveraging all the wonderful research on health models that have been developed over the years by our fabulous academic medical centers. I want personalization, meaning I will get a recommendation that will best help me stay healthy – maybe even gamification involved.

If I suffer from chronic diseases, I want the personalization engine to help me make decisions that manage my condition and return to leading a normal, fulfilled life. I want it to be informed by both the best pharma products but also the best diet that might contribute to my health. It should be a choice for me. And, if you haven't read, food is becoming digital too and is a primary driver of health through how you feed your microbiome.

And finally my health is not a static thing. It is constantly changing with what I eat, how hard I exercise, or how well I slept last night. The continuous inputs into my digital health twin should help track the trends and forecast my health trajectory in a much more sophisticated way than stepping on a scale every morning. It's not about the next new thing, but more about using the data we already have and can generate for each person, and start leveraging that data in a more intelligent way. In the end, if I’m a healthy person I want to stay healthy and avoid becoming 'a patient.' If I'm in recovery from cancer, I want my entire body of data, genotype, phenotype, metabolomics and whatever else you collected to be used to design my care cure and the pathway back to health.

So my bold prediction is really just that we'll start using all this data we have.


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