Germany: First prototype for a "digital patient twin"

One click to optimal prevention, diagnosis and therapy: The German Fraunhofer Institutes present the first prototype of a digital patient model as part of the MED²ICIN lead project.

The project matches patient data with parameters from population studies and data

One click to optimal prevention, diagnosis and therapy: Seven of the German Fraunhofer Institutes present the first prototype of a digital patient model as part of the MED²ICIN lead project. It is already being tested at Frankfurt University Hospital.

"With the prototype digital patient model, we are entering a new era in patient treatment," says Dr Stefan Wesarg, Head of Competence Center Visual Healthcare Technologies at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD and coordinator of the MED²ICIN project.

Up to now, diagnosis and therapy of chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cancer or dementia have been complex and cost-intensive. Patient data such as anamnesis interviews, MRI scans, laboratory examinations or therapy options are increasingly being digitally recorded and stored, but they are unstructured and not always available to those treating the patients. A meaningful processing, linking and visualisation of patient data and direct access to the latest study data or guidelines for clinical decision-making is not possible in the daily routine of a clinic during patient assessments in situ.

A "digital twin" for optimal patient care

The lead project MED²ICIN combines the health information of a patient and compares it with parameters from population studies and data of specific clinical pictures such as diagnosis, course of disease, medication or therapies of other affected persons. Taking clinical guidelines and health-economic aspects into account, a holistic, digital patient model is created - a digital twin.

Frankfurt University Hospital uses twin models for inflammatory bowel diseases

The digital image developed is already being used at the University Hospital, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Here it is being evaluated and implemented using the example of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Data from more than 600 patients with 170 different parameters are available. A cooperation like the one with the University Hospital Frankfurt offers a great advantage for the Fraunhofer Institutes: "Through the feedback received from physicians, we can already specifically address the wishes and questions of those who will later use the system," Dr. Wesarg explains. Interdisciplinary cooperation is also taking place among the seven Fraunhofer institutes involved. Their special fields create unique conditions for the development of such a digital patient model.

Current users in this project phase are medical professionals in hospitals mostly engaged in the treatment of admitted patients with complex disease processes. In the later stages, specialists in private practice will also be involved, but patients will also have access. The same applies to research institutes or health insurance companies. To this end, the Fraunhofer researchers want to market the solution together with life science companies and technology providers in health IT.

A better use of overall social health expenditure is possible

"With such an image of a patient, however, there is not only enormous potential for improving the treatment of individuals," says Dr. Wesarg. It is also possible to make better use of health expenditures for society as a whole. Intelligent use of resources is particularly important in view of the challenge of demographic change. Technology-driven innovations such as the Fraunhofer-lead project MED²ICIN help to use constantly rising costs to provide the best possible treatment for those affected. By drawing on a data pool of similar cases and analysing such data, the lead project goes far beyond existing digitisation projects such as the electronic patient file or hospital information systems (HIS).

Modular dashboard for data visualisation

MED²ICIN processes and visualises the data in a modular dashboard. The interface was designed in such a way that it is intuitive to use and individually customisable. For example, a 3D model of the human body with its organ system is also integrated. The level of detail of the information displayed in the lead project is much higher than 3D models allow. The dashboard provides medical professionals with a comprehensive, data-based decision-making aid to initiate the best therapy.

The MED²ICIN project is being developed as a generic model. It can be used for a variety of medical questions on a wide range of disease patterns - such as those of the cardiovascular system or oncology. The development is carried out in strict compliance with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). All data are pseudonymised and do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about individual persons. The lead project started in October 2018 and is designed to run for four years. After the first successful tests, the next step is to further develop the digital patient model and find IT partners who can implement the solution for hospitals.