Blog 20 Jun 2024 

Meet your Medical Digital Twin: the virtual health gamechanger

What are medical digital twins (MDT)? And how will they revolutionise healthcare and accelerate personalised medicine? Steven tells us in this blog…

Steven Bagshaw

Steven Bagshaw

Grand Challenge Lead

There is only one you. 

But one day, you could benefit from a twin who will share your name, your medical and genomic history, and virtual models of your vital organs – enabling genuinely personalised healthcare. 

What if the treatment you are prescribed for an illness could first be tested on a digital you? Not only could this be much safer, but the treatment would also be truly personalised for you, made possible by your medical digital twin. 

It’s an exciting new development that builds on decades of research. In fact, digital twins have been around for longer than you might think. 

More than 50 years ago, NASA used a digital twin model system to help bring Apollo 13 safely back to Earth. They continue to use them for astronaut and space mission testing as well as mapping and simulating Earth’s complex systems. And digital twins are now being used in a range of other applications. For example, in smart cities like Los Angeles and Shanghai to test infrastructure and urban operations; in entertainment and sports for digital stadium and fan shop experiences. 

What is a medical digital twin (MDT)?

A medical digital twin (MDT) is a computational model and virtual counterpart of your physical self – organs, tissues and cells included. It’s created using a patient’s medical data, real-time updates from wearable monitors and information on diet, lifestyle, family history and other environmental factors, producing a virtual doppelgänger powered by machine learning. 

MDT technology is already revolutionising healthcare. Its growing application in medicine is set to enhance personalised diagnosis and treatment to unprecedented levels.

When illness arises, a range of treatment options can be tested on the digital twin to devise the best treatment plan and foresee side effects. Putting the actual patient through this level of testing would be impractical and potentially damaging.

MDT systems can also predict the onset of conditions which might remain undiagnosed for years and advise lifestyle changes to offset their likelihood or severity.

Already being used in heart surgery and maternity care, digital twins coupled with agile development principles are also being rolled out to streamline the design, development and adoption of medical devices. For example, they are being applied in:

  • Patient pathway modelling – generating evidence through simulation and analysis to determine the potential impact of a new medical device on patient care.
  • Product development – modelling anatomical and other patient features for design optimisation of medical devices and their materials.
  • Clinical trials – generating data that can further inform product or drug design and function as well as risk analysis and human trial structure before embarking on clinical trials involving patients.

The potential benefits of using MDT across all aspects of healthcare are phenomenal.

From CPI’s HealthTech report, here is an illustration:

Where we were:


Lyra, aged 11, arrives in A&E after collapsing at home. After 2 weeks in the ICU, Diabetes Type 1 is diagnosed. Lyra must inject herself with insulin and carefully track her diet for the rest of her life. There will be other collapses, and Lyra’s regular insulin injections will trigger obesity. After decades spent struggling with her condition, Lyra dies at the age of 60

Where we are:


All of the above occurs, but instead of injecting daily, Lyra wears a device that continuously tracks her blood glucose and sends readings to a smart phone or tablet, triggering alerts when glucose levels spike or drop. 

The continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sends the information wireless to an app or a wearable insulin pump. The right amount of insulin is delivered to Lyra, 24/7, responding to her meals and glucose level changes. If required, insulin pens are available on prescription. With regular GP checks and a healthy lifestyle, Lyra lives to 76.

Where we are going:


Before she is even born, the MDTs of Lyra’s parents flag diabetes as a future risk. At her birth, stem cells from the placenta are frozen for future use. 

From age 5, Lyra wears a biometric monitor to relay information to her own MDT. An appointment to discuss her Diabetes Type 1 is set up as soon as symptoms manifest, shortly before she turns 11, saving her the collapse and the 2‑week hospital stay. 

Supported by a highly advanced AI system, her doctor develops a medical intervention strategy, using gene therapy to prevent the condition. Adopting the doctor’s lifestyle plan, she feels in charge of her own health and adopts a mindset towards healthy aging. Lyra lives to 100, diabetes-free. 

How soon?

Storing medical records electronically is the foundation for MDTs –and this is already happening. The steady accumulation of data will enable them to become a common phenomenon. Commercially, digital twins have already started emerging in the health and wellness sector, which is building data through wearables and private services such as blood testing and microbiome analysis. All things considered, by 2035, the MDT is likely to be a well-established norm.

Co-piloting with MDT

Japan is investing heavily in senior-friendly technology such as carebots to support the needs of its ageing population.

Simple carebot functions include guiding bathroom visits, lifting heavy objects, prompting regular exercise and calling family members in an emergency – all helping to secure extended independence for seniors. 

Connected to an MDT system, carebots will be able to assist in more sophisticated elements of healthcare, from medication reminders to blood pressure monitoring and other tracking and reporting functions. MDT-enabled carebots will act as co-pilots, with the potential to improve health outcomes. 

In the US, Inside Tracker is already making strides in AI-powered medical co-piloting. Developed by health experts and scientists, this system regularly measures over 40 blood biomarkers via data from its customers’ smart watches and rings. 

This continuous data stream informs recommendations to improve and adjust lifestyle for healthy ageing. Biomarkers are tracked over many years, and any meaningful changes will prompt further investigation well before symptoms arise. 

As a result, many medical stakeholders may pivot into the wellness industry as preventive action becomes standard practice. 

Caring for the populace

Anonymised data from millions of MDTs could exponentially improve how we understand public health, nationally and globally. Analysing patterns and trends will help governments roll out more targeted and effective health campaigns and allocate resources more efficiently. 

Medical researchers will be able to mine a vast amount of quality data over an ever-extending timescale, fuelling healthcare innovations and refinements. 

Using MDT technology to unlock the data of demographics, lifestyle, geography and heredity will be game-changing for us all. Sooner than we think. 

Download the full report here

Future of healthcare

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