MAKING IT HAPPENHow far are we from achieving this?
That's precisely what DISCIPULUS has been set up for! Our job essentially can be summarised as follows:
To answer the question though, well, the technology already exists, but in largely isolated parts, five good examples are:
What the virtual physiological human technology is like today. The challenges that must be overcome in other to make the digital patient reality. Where we might be in ten years' time with this technology.
3D scanning (the video games industry uses this extensively) - It is relatively easy to generate a 3D CGI avatar of yourself although your avatar generally doesn't come with internal organs! Internal organ imaging - this is very much the realm of radiology. Atomic/molecular level modelling - a major part of chemistry research, it uses the methods of molecular dynamics, molecular mechanics, and quantum mechanics. Subatomic level modelling - has its origins in particle physics, but is now also a major area in medical physics, an application of this is the simulation of radiotherapy in cancer treatment. Avatar modelling - this is a cornerstone of many blockbuster movies today, using CGI technology, but it has also made its way into internal organs, tissues, and cells. The European Commission has funded a wide range of such projects, which can be found at www.vph-noe.eu. Electronic Healthcare Records (EHRs) - now standard in much of medical practice.
The question then is, "How do you combine all these individual parts together to produce the digital patient?" DISCIPULUS will not be able to answer this question when the project concludes in March 2013, but will be recommending pathways through which this question could be answered sometime in the future. The product for disseminating these pathways will be a "Roadmap for the Digital Patient".
Everyone can get involved!
To produce this roadmap, we now have a consultation process with scientists, computer modellers, clinicians, and we want to open one with the general public (more details on the format of the public engagement will follow soon). We held the First Consultation Meeting in Barcelona, Spain, in late March 2012, which subsequently led to the First Draft of the Digital Patient Roadmap that was published in early July 2012. A full copy of the report can be found here and a summary can be found here. The Second Consultation Meeting will also take place in Barcelona, on the 26th and 27th of November 2012, and the invitation is not just restricted to experts, but also non-experts representing other groups (see Description of Initiative). The product of this meeting will be the final roadmap which will be published in March 2013, but anyone that wants to get involved now, can do so through our open forum and twitter. We also have a wikipage for experts that want to contribute (although registration is required, but this is free).
The DISCIPULUS project is funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013).