Article | September 4, 2020
A digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world entity or system. The implementation of a digital twin is a model that mirrors a unique physical object, process, organization, person or other abstraction. For healthcare providers, digital twins provide an abstraction of the healthcare ecosystem’s component characteristics and behaviors. These are used in combination with other real-time health system (RTHS) capabilities to provide real-time monitoring, process simulation for efficiency improvements, population health and long-term, cross-functional statistical analyses.
Digital twins have the potential to transform and accelerate decision making, reduce clinical risk, improve operational efficiencies and lower cost of care, resulting in better competitive advantage for HDOs. However, digital twins will only be as valuable as the quality of the data utilized to create them. The digital twin of a real-world entity is a method to create relevance for descriptive data about its modeled entity. How that digital twin is built and used can lead to better-informed care pathways and organizational decisions, but it can also lead clinicians and executives down a path of frustration if they get the source data wrong. The underlying systems that gather and process data are key to the success for digital twin creation. Get those systems right and digital twins can accelerate care delivery and operational efficiencies.
Twins in Healthcare Delivery
The fact is that HDOs have been using digital twins for years. Although rudimentary in function, digital representations of patients, workflow processes and hospital operations have already been applied by caregivers and administrators across the HDO. For example, a physician uses a digital medical record to develop a treatment plan for a patient. The information in the medical record (a rudimentary digital twin) along with the physician’s experience, training and education combine to provide a diagnostic or treatment plan. Any gaps in information must be compensated through additional data gathering, trial-and-error treatments, intuitive leaps informed through experience or simply guessing. The CIO’s task now is to remove as many of those gaps as possible using available technology to give the physician the greatest opportunity to return their patients to wellness in the most efficient possible manner.
Today, one way to close those gaps is to create the technology-based mechanisms to collect accurate data for the various decision contexts within the HDO. These contexts are numerous and include decisioning perspectives for every functional unit within the enterprise. The more accurate the data collected on a specific topic, the higher the value of the downstream digital twin to each decision maker (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Digital Twins Are Only as Good as Their Data Source
HDO CIOs and other leaders that base decisions on poor-quality digital twins increase organizational risk and potential patient care risk. Alternatively, high-quality digital twins will accelerate digital business and patient care effectiveness by providing decision makers the best information in the correct context, in the right moment and at the right place — hallmarks of the RTHS.
Benefits and Uses
Digital Twin Types in Healthcare Delivery
Current practices for digital twins take two basic forms: discrete digital twins and composite digital twins. Discrete digital twins are the type that most people think about when approaching the topic. These digital twins are one-dimensional, created from a single set or source of data. An MRI study of a lung, for example, is used to create a digital representation of a patient that can be used by trained analytics processes to detect the subtle image variations that indicate a cancerous tumor. The model of the patient’s lung is a discrete digital twin. There are numerous other examples of discrete digital twins across healthcare delivery, each example tied to data collection technologies for specific clinical diagnostic purposes. Some of these data sources include vitals monitors, imaging technologies for specific conditions, sensors for electroencephalography (EEG) and electrocardiogram (ECG). All these technologies deliver discrete data describing one (or very few) aspects of a patient’s condition.
Situational awareness is at the heart of HDO digital twins. They are the culmination of information gathered from IoT and other sources to create an informed, accurate digital model of the real-world healthcare organization. Situational awareness is the engine behind various “hospital of the future,” “digital hospital” and “smart patient room” initiatives. It is at the core of the RTHS.
Digital twins, when applied through the RTHS, positively impact these organizational areas (with associated technology examples — the technologies all use one or more types of digital twins to fulfill their capability):
Clinical communication and collaboration
Next-generation nurse call
Alarms and notifications
Integrated patient room
Digital Twin Usability
Digital twin risk is tied directly to usability. Digital twin usability is another way of looking at the issue created by poor data quality or low data point counts used to create the twins. Decision making is a process that is reliant on inputs from relevant information sources combined with education, experience, risk assessment, defined requirements, criteria and opportunities to reach a plausible conclusion. There is a boundary or threshold that must be reached for each of these inputs before a person or system can derive a decision. When digital twins are used for one or many of these sources, the ability to cross these decision thresholds to create reasonable and actionable conclusions is tied to the accuracy of the twins (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Digital Twin Usability Thresholds
For example, the amount of information about a patient room required to decide if the space is too hot or cold is low (due to a single temperature reading from a wall-mounted thermostat). In addition, the accuracy or quality of that data can be low (that is, a few degrees off) and still be effective for deciding to raise or lower the room temperature. To decide if the chiller on the roof of that patient wing needs to be replaced, the decision maker needs much more information. That data may represent all thermostat readings in the wing over a long period of time with some level of verification on temperature accuracy. The data may also include energy load information over the same period consumed by the associated chiller.
If viewed in terms of a digital twin, the complexity level and accuracy level of the source data must pass an accuracy threshold that allows users to form accurate decisions. There are multiple thresholds for each digital twin — based on twin quality — whether that twin is a patient, a revenue cycle workflow or hospital wing. These thresholds create a limit of decision impact; the lower the twin quality the less important the available decision for the real-world entity the twin represents.
Trusting Digital Twins for HDOs
The concept of a limit of detail required to make certain decisions raises certain questions. First, “how does a decision maker know they have enough detail in their digital twin to take action based on what the model is describing about its real-world counterpart?” The answer lies in measurement and monitoring of specific aspects of a digital twin, whether it be a discrete twin, composite twin or organization twin.
Users must understand the inputs required for decisions and where twins will provide one or more of the components of that input. They need to examine the required decision criteria in order to reach the appropriate level of expected outcome from the decision itself. These feed into the measurements that users will have to monitor for each twin. These criteria will be unique to each twin. Composite twins will have unique measurements that may be independent from the underlying discrete twin measurement.
The monitoring of these key twin characteristics must be as current as the target twin’s data flow or update process. Digital twins that are updated once can have a single measurement to gauge its appropriateness for decisioning. A twin that is updated every second based on event stream data must be measured continuously.
This trap is the same for all digital twins regardless of context. The difference is in the potential impact. A facilities decision that leads to cooler-than-desired temperatures in the hallways pales in comparison to a faulty clinical diagnosis that leads to unnecessary testing or negative patient outcomes.
All it takes is a single instance of a digital twin used beyond its means with negative results for trust to disappear — erasing the significant investments in time and effort it took to create the twin. That is why it is imperative that twins be considered a technology product that requires constant process improvement. From the IoT edge where data is collected to the data ingestion and analytics processes that consume and mold the data to the digital twin creation routines, all must be under continuous pressure for improvement.
Include a Concise Digital Twin Vision Within the HDO Digital Transformation Strategy
Digital twins are one of the foundational constructs supporting digital transformation efforts by HDO CIOs. They are digital representations of the real-world entities targeted by organizations that benefit from the advances and efficiencies technologies bring to healthcare delivery. Those technology advances and efficiencies will only be delivered successfully if the underlying data and associated digital twins have the appropriate level of precision to sustain the transformation initiatives.
To ensure this attention to digital twin worthiness, it is imperative that HDO CIOs include a digital twin vision as part of their organization’s digital transformation strategy. Binding the two within the strategy will reinforce the important role digital twins play in achieving the desired outcomes with all participating stakeholders.
Building new capabilities — APIs, artificial intelligence (AI) and other new technologies enable the connections and automation that the platform provides.
Leveraging existing systems — Legacy systems that an HDO already owns can be adapted and connected to form part of its digital platform.
Applying the platform to the industry — Digital platforms must support specific use cases, and those use cases will reflect the needs of patients, employees and other consumers.
Create a Digital Twin Pilot Program
Like other advanced technology ideas, a digital twin program is best started as a simple project that can act as a starting point for maturity over time. Begin this by selecting a simple model of a patient, a department or other entity tied to a specific desired business or clinical outcome. The goal is to understand the challenges your organization will face when implementing digital twins.
The target for the digital twin should be discrete and easily managed. For example, a digital twin of a blood bank storage facility is a contained entity with a limited number of measurement points, such as temperature, humidity and door activity. The digital twin could be used to simulate the impact of door open time on temperature and humidity within the storage facility. The idea is to pick a project that allows your team to concentrate on data collection and twin creation processes rather than get tied up in specific details of the modeled object.
Begin by analyzing the underlying source data required to compose the digital twin, with the understanding that the usability of the twins is directly correlated to its data’s quality. Understand the full data pathway from the IoT devices through to where that data is stored. Think through the data collection type needed for the twin, is discrete data or real-time data required? How much data is needed to form the twin accurately? How accurate is the data generated by the IoT devices?
Create a simulation environment to exercise the digital twin through its paces against known operational variables. The twin’s value is tied to how the underlying data represents the response of the modeled entity against external input. Keep this simple to start with — concentrate on the IT mechanisms that create and execute the twin and the simulation environment.
Monitor and measure the performance of the digital twin. Use the virtuous cycle to create a constant improvement process for the sample twin. Experience gained through this simple project will create many lessons learned and best practices to follow for complex digital twins that will follow.
Article | February 12, 2021
Social media has become a powerful tool to connect people with friends, relatives, family, and other loved ones. Worldwide, around 4.2 billion people are actively using the internet. Among them, 3 billion are regularly active on social media channels. Social media is not just about interpersonal conversations; at least 80 percent of users follow one business on Instagram. With all the ads on your Facebook news feed, you connect with various brands or become aware about many brands. But does social media in healthcare make any impact?
Almost all industries have started to realize the power of social media and how it can impact connecting with consumers. Various social media platforms help companies share information, increase brand awareness, and partner with industry influencers. Social media has overpowered traditional marketing strategies. Social media has become the wave of the future.
Regarding the uptake of social media, the healthcare industry has been a bit slower. However, the industry now has accepted the undeniable importance of social media in healthcare. The reluctance might have been due to the risks associated for the providers as well as patients. Privacy and confidentiality of patient information has to be maintained always. Those were the challenges of social media in healthcare. However, consumers can get information from social media faster than any other tool.
The Healthcare industry includes both the healthcare technology providers as well as the healthcare service providers. Whether you are a service provider or a technology provider, social media can impact your customers equally. This article discusses the positive effects and benefits of social media in healthcare, especially healthcare service providers.
Embraced by the Medical Community
The healthcare industry took notice of social media when government agencies and other business industries started to reap the benefits of social media. A recent survey revealed an interesting fact about the use of social media in healthcare. More than 1500 healthcare providers around the US have social media presence online. Hospitals miss key opportunities if they don’t use social media. These hospital systems have started effectively using social media to reach out to their past, current, and future patients. Social media in healthcare is an easy medium to share vital information with consumers and patients in the industry.
The survey also revealed that more than 30% of medical professionals use various social media platforms to network with their peers. Many physicians also use these social media platforms for multiple activities in open forums. Having an active online presence evokes transparency among clients and peers. Healthcare providers can join various platforms such as Twitter to become healthcare influencers. Through social media in healthcare, providers can make connections, engage the community, and explore the industry.
The Case of Cleveland Clinic, Ohio
Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US is the best example of how social media can be used to reach out to patients, engage them online, and stay ahead of competitors. They have more than 2 million followers on Facebook, 1.9 million followers on Twitter, and around 5 lack followers on LinkedIn. They have very different and unique social media strategies. They do post about whatever happens on the campus, including doctors practicing in their respective departments and interactive sessions with doctors and HODs, etc. Also, they do provide health tips and information, general health advice, and updates on the latest medical technologies and treatments. Apart from these, the hospital also reaches out to patients for queries and feedback through social media and responds to them promptly. These effective social media strategies help them in building up a brand, reputation management, create a patient relationship and build patient loyalty.
Loved by Healthcare Consumers
To find advice and new treatments, healthcare consumers widely use social media. This creates an opportunity for providers to connect with consumers through various forms of healthcare educational content. More than 40 percent of consumers believe that social media in healthcare affects their wellness decisions and health. Among 18 to 24 years old, 90 percent of people trust the medical information they get on social media. This shows the importance of healthcare providers on social media channels.
Mobile healthcare is expanding as consumers depend more on the internet for information. Countless fitness and health apps are available online. However, many of them are not effective and do not cure diseases but can change behaviors. Having an app will help you increase your accountability, as a provider, among consumers.
Positive Impact of Social Media on Healthcare
The healthcare community is widely embracing the scope of social media in healthcare. Healthcare technology providers, hospitals, and other service providers are opening new accounts to create a consistent image among consumers. There are many ways to improve care by reaching out to patients through social media in healthcare. Some of the positive impacts of best practices for social media in healthcare are as follows:
Increasing Access Across Generations
Healthcare companies have almost stopped employing the traditional ways of advertising. Patients always need quick access to information to reduce the risk of getting flu or to find new providers, including baby boomers, every generation is online. According to Forbes, as of 2017, 9 percent of Facebook users were above 55 years of age. This present generation is very tech-savvy, they search online for local healthcare services and healthcare information. They use Facebook and YouTube. So, you need to create a marketing strategy that targets baby boomers.
Generation X also searches health-related topics online, which accounts for 1.5 billion views on YouTube each day. As they care for children and aging parents, they may search for the best long-term care facilities, how to soothe a colicky baby, and so much more. As millennials are focused on healthy living and being cost-conscious, they depend more on social media platforms for healthcare information. Ninety-three percent of millennials say that they do not rely on healthcare providers for preventive health information.
Thus, as everyone goes online for healthcare information, healthcare service providers should consider the role of social media in healthcare seriously. By providing reliable and accurate information, healthcare providers can engage with consumers and increase the patient experience through social media.
The days that the patients trust doctors blindly have gone. Healthcare consumers have become smarter and want to have relationships with providers who care for them. Allowing your tech-savvy employees to share videos and pictures of events or office helps have a human touch. It also improves patient engagement and overall patient satisfaction.
If patients know the people in your reception or nurses of respective departments, it helps them relax, engage, and makes them share their health history more openly. This is possible as they connect with those in the office through your social media in healthcare. It increases your authenticity.
Keeping an Eye on Competitors
Administrators and marketers keep an eye on their competitors through their social media platforms. They evaluate pain points, community involvements, service lines, and marketing strategies sitting in their offices. Hospitals and other providers can quickly get feedback on technologies and marketing strategies the competitors are using. This would help them if they want to incorporate these things in their care process before investing.
You can take note of the social media platforms where your competitors are performing well. This approach to social media in healthcare would remove the possibility of failure with your social media strategy, especially when you begin with it.
During emergencies and other situations, social media in healthcare allows you to communicate quickly. Social media updates can provide life-saving information, from crisis alerts to census notifications. World Health Organization (WHO) is an excellent example; they provide real-time information to the masses regarding any health crisis, warnings, and other critical safety information during disasters, using social media, especially Twitter.
Similarly, by providing real-time information to your consumers through your social media channels, you can increase your authenticity, authority, and dependency. Real-time access to information saves lives.
Patients often want to communicate with their doctors quickly. They may need to share something about a recent appointment or about a reaction they had to medication. Making patients provide feedback on social media helps you learn how they feel about their medicine and care.
You can get essential feedback that might help you improve your care. It also helps you recognize and reward the staff that the consumers recognize. As a provider, you can also get back to them for additional information after the feedback you get from them on social media. This possibility of social media in healthcare will work more to provide better care next time.
Social Media for the Future
Social media in healthcare is going to stay here and have advancements from time to time. Most of the modern consumers are tech-savvy and want to have everything at their fingertips. Modern patients have no patience. Therefore, social media works to engage patients and enhance the patient experience and satisfaction.
Whether you are a large service provider, a solo practitioner, or run a hospital, you need a social media presence. For engaging with your community, social media in healthcare helps a lot. It can make an impact beyond your imagination. Use these strategies to improve the quality of the healthcare you provide.
It may be a tiresome job to do it all alone. We, at Media7, provide social media services to engage your consumers. Whether you are a service provider or a technology provider, we are here to help you with our compelling social media strategies. We help healthcare companies generate leads, brand themselves, increase sales, and make them your happy customers. For more details about us, visit https://media7.com/.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media in health care?
When used cautiously, social media can provide clear benefits, such as clinical education, professional networking, and patient’s health promotion. However, there can be disadvantages too, including privacy and confidentiality of patients, resulting in formidable consequences.
How has social media influenced the marketing of health care?
For establishing public awareness and managing reputation, social media is practical means. As part of an effective marketing plan, social media has become an essential medium for healthcare professionals to interact with consumers and engage them.
What is the Importance of Social Media in the hospital?
By providing important and general information on healthcare, hospitals can make their presence more valuable to consumers. Encouraging patients to share their feedback and thoughts makes hospitals connect with them and improve the care process.
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Article | April 7, 2020
The last time the world experienced a pandemic on the scale of COVID-19 was the Spanish flu pandemic from 1918 to 1920. All told, 500 million people were infected, and an estimated 35 million people succumbed to the virus. That’s because over a hundred years ago, the medical technology needed to fight that disease was non-existent. There were no lab tests to isolate the virus and no vaccines to treat it. What medical experts did enforce back then were the closures of schools and public places. Citizens were told to stay indoors and were advised against close contact with other people. Instead of placing the thermometer under the tongue or in the ear, the operator simply scans a person’s forehead to obtain an instant temperature reading without any physical contact.
Article | March 13, 2020
As the novel coronavirus outbreak continues, the federal government and commercial health insurers have taken significant steps to increase Americans’ access to treatment and testing. In the past week, the federal government and private insurers have issued a number of guidance documents expanding coverage and payment requirements in an effort to minimize the spread of the virus. As with any changes in coverage and reimbursement, healthcare providers offering telehealth services should carefully review these changes and take steps to ensure that all regulatory and coverage requirements are met prior to submitting claims for reimbursement.