VA recruits Watson analytics, cloud to fight PTSD

VA recruits Watson analytics, cloud to fight PTSD

The Department of Veterans Affairs launched a pilot project to test the ability of IBM’s Watson analytics technology to help VA doctors rapidly sift electronic medical records for treatment and research data that could support clinical decisions in the care of veterans.

The VA will also assess how the Watson technology, which became famous by competing against Jeopardy! quiz show winners, might help speed data-driven clinical decisions, including those involving post traumatic stress disorder cases.

“Physicians can save valuable time finding the right information needed to care for their patients with this sophisticated and advanced technology,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy in announcing the project.

“A tool that can help clinicians quickly collect, combine and present information will allow them to spend more time listening and interacting with the veteran. This directly supports the patient-centric medicine VA is committed to delivering every day,” she added.

The VA-Watson project leaders also want to study the potential of the technology for producing relevant medical data at the point of care as well as to reduce the number of systems and tools physicians have to juggle in clinical settings.

According to IBM, analyzing a single EMR is on a par with scanning up to 100M of structured and unstructured data, much of it in the form of plain text, across a patient’s lifetime of clinical notes, labs and treatments.

Using Watson, Veterans Health Administration physicians, “can now interact with the data in natural language, process vast amounts of big data to uncover patterns and insights and learn from each interaction,” said Anne Altman, IBM general manager for U.S. federal in a blog post.

During the pilot, clinical decisions will not be made on actual patient encounters, but instead will use realistic simulations.

The project will also use IBM Watson Discovery Advisor, a new tool that uses visualization techniques to help uncover patterns in data.  The cloud-based service can help accelerate research from months to days and hours, IBM said.

The VA project isn’t the first time Watson has been enlisted to support healthcare or veterans programs.

The company announced in October it was partnering with the Cleveland Clinic to use Watson Genomics to study cancer treatment options based on a patient’s genome. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Tex., both use Watson-based tools in analyzing cancer treatments.

And earlier this year, Watson was used in pilot program to advise military members how to navigate their financial affairs in returning to civilian life.

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