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NIH Grants $3.14 Million for Healthcare Digital Twins Research

NIH Grants $3.14 Million for Healthcare Digital Twins Research

The News: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded researchers from Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth a $3.14 million grant to use healthcare digital twins to better understand and address health disparities. Healthcare digital twins are described as “virtual representations (“digital twin”) of patients (“physical twin”) that are created from multimodal patient data, population data, and real-time updates on patient and environmental variables.” Read the press release on Cleveland Clinic’s website.

NIH Grants $3.14 Million for Healthcare Digital Twins Research

Analyst Take: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded researchers from Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth System (also in Cleveland) a $3.14 million grant to use healthcare digital twins to better understand and address health disparities. Healthcare digital twins are described as “virtual representations (“digital twin”) of patients (“physical twin”) that are created from multimodal patient data, population data, and real-time updates on patient and environmental variables.” Healthcare digital twins enable doctors to be able to better predict how a person ages, when illnesses appear, what course they might take, and what the most effective treatment is. The research team, led by Jarrod Dalton, Ph.D., Cleveland Clinic, and Adam Perzynski, Ph.D., MetroHealth, will utilize healthcare digital twins, which are sophisticated data models built from electronic health records (EHRs), to analyze health trends from a combined research registry of more than 250,000 patients from the health systems.

“Where a person lives or works can shape their health outcomes – including life expectancy and risk of developing diseases like cancer or diabetes. Americans from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities are more likely to have heart attacks and stroke, and are expected to live 10 fewer years than wealthier Americans,” said Dr. Dalton, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Populations Health Research. “Our goal is to design an approach to help health systems, governments, and organizations collaborate and strategize ways to address clear disparities.”

What Are Healthcare Digital Twins?

Digital healthcare twins will be able to gather an individual’s ongoing health data and regularly analyze it in comparison with data from population studies, data on specific clinical pathologies, the progression of specific diseases, and information regarding medications, diagnostics, and treatments applied to other individuals with similar conditions. By incorporating this data, along with clinical guidelines and economic factors, the healthcare digital twin allows healthcare professionals to formulate a comprehensive and personalized prevention or treatment plan taking into consideration the whole health of the individual.

Healthcare Digital Twin Requirements

  • Hospitals or healthcare practices must be adequately digitally networked
  • Data must be structured and annotated
  • Patients must have the ability to make decisions regarding the utilization of their data
  • Medical professionals must have access to the information processed in the healthcare digital twin and be able to leverage it in everyday clinical practice

Healthcare Digital Twin Project

The researchers will initially build the infrastructure for “Digital Twin Neighborhoods” by synthesizing de-identified EHR data and information on social determinants of health (SDOH). These virtual neighborhoods will reflect real communities in terms of geographic, social, and biological characteristics, which may assist in expanding access to data and algorithms for understanding health inequities.

“This project aims to chart a new course for understanding place-based population health strategies and improving health outcomes,” said Dr. Perzynski of MetroHealth’s Population Health Research Institute (PHRI). “Evaluating technology like digital twins in the research space can make it easier for organizations to take a data-backed approach to public health interventions. Instead of building these models from scratch, other health systems and organizations can adapt the framework for their own needs.”

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

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Author Information

Clint Wheelock

Clint brings over 20 years of market research and consulting experience, focused on emerging technology markets. He was co-founder and CEO of Dash Network, an integrated research and digital media firm focused on the CX market, which was acquired by The Futurum Group in 2022. He previously founded Tractica with a focus on human interaction with technology, including coverage of AI, user interface technologies, advanced computing, and other emerging sectors. Acquired by Informa Group, Clint served as Chief Research Officer for Informa’s research division, Omdia, with management and content strategy responsibility, formed by the combination of Tractica, Ovum, IHS Markit Technology, and Heavy Reading.
Clint was previously the founder and President of Pike Research, a leading market intelligence firm focused on the global clean technology industry, which was acquired by Navigant Consulting where he was Managing Director of the Navigant Research business.

Prior to Pike Research, Clint was Chief Research Officer at ABI Research, a New York-based industry analyst firm concentrating on the impact of emerging technologies on global consumer and business markets.

Clint holds a Master of Business Administration in Telecommunications Management from the University of Dallas and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Washington & Lee University.

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