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VA to Tap Into Watson's Supercomputer Capabilities

IBM recently announced that the VA is using Watson technology in a pilot to assist physicians in helping accelerate the process of evidence-based medical decision making. The VA joins leading health care organizations that are working with IBM Watson to help improve efficiency and quality of care being delivered. As part of the multiyear contract, the VHA will also work with Watson for a clinical focus supporting veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the VA's National Center for PTSD, there are approximately 21.6 million veterans in the United States. As many as 20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom are impacted with PTSD. Additionally, 12% of Gulf War veterans and 15% of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD.

With the amount of medical data doubling every three years and the size and complexity associated with patient data in EMRs, Watson will be studied to see how it can help VHA clinicians quickly make sense of an overwhelming amount of data. Watson will make it possible for VHA physicians to interact with medical data in natural language, process millions of pages of patient information and medical literature to uncover patterns and insights, and learn from each interaction. By sifting through reams of clinical data, Watson is able to distill evidence and knowledge within seconds.

Advanced as part of a separate collaborative effort with Cleveland Clinic, IBM is applying Watson technology to an EMR environment to help clinicians navigate and process medical records, uncovering key information and unlocking hidden insights within the data. Such an evidence-based approach has the potential to help physicians make more informed decisions about patient care. The VA will study how to use capabilities of the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor to analyze health care data.

Available now as a cloud service, IBM's Watson Discovery Advisor is designed to scale and accelerate discoveries. It can help reduce the time physicians need to test hypotheses and formulate conclusions that can advance their work—from months to days and days to just hours—bringing new levels of speed and precision to research and development.

Historically, the potential of EMRs has not been realized due to the discrepancies of how the data are recorded, collected, and organized across health care systems and organizations. Watson's cognitive capabilities provide a differentiated approach to understanding the dynamics of the EMR environment and correlates what's in the EMR with medical literature, research, and articles, making data from EMRs more meaningful at the point of care.

IBM is supporting VHA physicians and staff in setting up their clinical reasoning system at the department's data center in Austin, Texas. Watson will ingest hundreds of thousands of VHA documents, as well as medical records and research papers in order to help study how Watson technology can help physicians improve patient care in the clinical environment. In this capacity, the VA is evaluating the system in simulated previsit, visit, and postvisit situations where physicians will conduct technical, functional, and usability assessments. 

"IBM designed Watson to help solve some of the world's greatest challenges, and I'm humbled to be working with the VA in helping them, including enhancing treatment efforts for PTSD," says Anne Altman, general manager for US Federal at IBM. "There's no more important challenge than improving health care for our veterans and we've seen how Watson can assist medical professionals and make it easier for them to capture insight from so many sources and make more informed decisions. The VA is poised to join other key health care industry leaders who are already pioneering the use of cognitive computing in health care."

Source: IBM