Dec 29 2014

VA Pilot Program Will Use IBM Watson to Help Treat PTSD Patients

The VA is evaluating how this cognitive system can help physicians quickly process millions of records to identify insights and trends.

A new partnership between IBM and the Veterans Affairs Department could help to speed medical decision-making for VA physicians and enhance treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

As part of the pilot project, VA physicians will have access to IBM’s Watson technology, according to a recent news release. The powerful cognitive system will be used to read, understand and analyze massive amounts of data in order to help physicians quickly make evidence-based medical decisions.

The agency’s two-year, $16 million contract with IBM provides for the installation of Watson software at the VA’s data center in Austin, the Washington Post reported. The initial phase of the deal, which includes set up and assessment, accounts for about $6 million.

Here’s how the IBM technology works:

Watson will ingest hundreds of thousands of VHA [Veterans Health Administration] 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 pre-visit, visit, and post-visit situations where physicians will conduct technical, functional and usability assessments.

Watson learns more from every patient interaction and uses that data to produce fact-based information for physicians within seconds. The technology can help physicians quickly identify trends and different insights.

This could be a game changer for VHA clinicians, especially those who treat PTSD patients and must make sense of massive amounts of data to draw conclusions and make diagnoses.

"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,” Anne Altman, general manager for U.S. Federal at IBM, said in a statement. “There’s no more important challenge than improving healthcare 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 healthcare industry leaders who are already pioneering the use of cognitive computing in healthcare.”


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