Jan 05 2022

VA Turns to AI to Streamline Administrative Tasks

The Department of Veterans Affairs is exploring how to use artificial intelligence tools to drive efficiencies in a wide range of medical and clerical areas.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is exploring how to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to help make clinicians and those conducting administrative work more efficient.

According to a recently issued request for information, which has a deadline for replies of Jan. 7, the department’s Accelerating VA Innovation and Learning (AVAIL) program is looking to use AI, ML, natural language processing or neural networks solutions “across a wide range of clinical and administrative areas.”

The RFI notes that the technologies will be used for numerous activities. Those include chronic disease management (diabetes, brain health, chronic kidney disease, heart failure and long COVID-19, among others); helping patients with multiple chronic conditions or those who use emergency or urgent care frequently; vulnerable or underserved patient populations (homeless or food insecure); acute conditions such as sepsis; and administrative task automation within the clinical workflow.

The goal is to supplement and support administrative tasks related to veterans’ healthcare, Amanda Purnell, director of data and analytics innovation with the VA, tells Nextgov. “What we are trying to do is utilize AI and machine learning to remove administrative burden of tasks,” she says.

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How AI Could Ease Administrative Burden for the VA

As part of AVAIL, the VA is exploring technology that can take care of the majority of document analysis for the department, Purnell tells Nextgov, which reports:

Using machine learning and natural language processing to scan and detect patterns in medical images, such as CT scans, MRIs and dermatology scans is one of the ways the VA aims to digitize its administrative workload. Staff at the VA is currently tasked with looking through faxes and other clinical data to siphon it to the right place. AVAIL would combine natural language processing to manage these operations and add human review when necessary.

AI and machine learning tools emphasize that “streamlining processes that are better and faster done by machines and allowing humans to do something that is more kind of ‘human-meaningful,’ and also allowing clinicians to operate to the top of their license,” Purnell says.

Such solutions need to leverage the existing suite of VA data and analytics platforms and must integrate into existing VA workflows that use Software as a Service, mobile applications and existing clinical information systems, where possible, according to the RFI.

AI and ML tools can also help the agency process forms and manage the sharing of data such as veteran claims and benefits.

“We’re alleviating that admin burden and increasing the experience both for veterans and our clinicians, in that veterans are getting more facetime with our clinicians and clinicians are doing more of what they are trained to do,” Purnell tells Nextgov.

RELATED: How will agencies make use of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics in 2022?

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