It is a challenge to bring all this data together and make it accessible to doctors, researchers and patients,’ says Richard Goossens, an expert in the field where users and technology meet. Together with Steegers-Theunissen, the Professor of Physical Ergonomics at the Industrial Design Department at the TU Delft is spearheading the project: ‘The diversity of users of the My Digital Twin platform is great. Some people are very handy with their computer or cell phone, others have more trouble with it. The latter group often includes vulnerable people and the elderly, who form an important source of information for this research. The platform therefore requires a sophisticated design. In addition, we must consider ‘the human factor’. It’s not just about collecting data; we must also remember that we are dealing with actual people. Goossens gives an example: ‘Suppose we would like to change a certain lifestyle because that would reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. You would have to deal with ethical aspects, because who are we to help people get rid of their – in our eyes not so wise – lifestyle?’
‘My Digital Twin is divided into four phases,’ Goossens explains. ‘We start by collecting the data. Is there data available from before pregnancy until the moment of death, or the very moment a cardiovascular disease manifests itself? We are interested in medical data, research data, lifestyle data, and social and ethical factors. Searching for these data is a daunting task. The second part of the project focuses on building the necessary infrastructure. This is followed by the design of the algorithms used to analyze the data. And finally, we need to bring the knowledge gained from those analyses to the benefit of patients and caregivers. Think sensors, digital questionnaires, and digital coaching programs. Eight postdocs were appointed for the My Digital Twin project for two years, always in pairs of two, one from TU Delft, one from Erasmus MC. An umbrella working group monitors the ethical and legal aspects.’
Steegers-Theunissen and Goossens emphasize the importance of the convergence of Erasmus MC, TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam. ‘Thanks to the convergence of our expertise’s, we are able to change our healthcare from reactive to proactive and preventive.’
This article was originally published on Amazingerasmusmc.nl.