VA Testing How Well Computers Predict Medical Problems

Bob Brewin of reports, "The Veterans Health Administration plans to test how advanced clinical reasoning and prediction systems can use massive amounts of archived patient data to help improve care, efficiency and health outcomes. The Veterans Affairs Department’s electronic health record system -- the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA -- stores data on 30 million veterans, including 3.2 billion clinical orders, 1.8 billion medication prescriptions and 2.3 billion vital sign measurements. This structured data is accompanied by 2 billion clinical text notes, with a growth rate of one hundred thousand additional notes per day."

Brewin continues, "In a request to potential vendors on Monday, VA emphasized that such a system goes far beyond traditional data mining techniques and rules-based clinical decision support systems. The agency wants to test an emerging class of computer systems that can sift through structured and unstructured data and use advanced natural language processing techniques and machine learning to detect patterns -- the results of which would flag problems, inform decision-making and ultimately, improve patient care.  VHA said it plans to install a pilot clinical reasoning and prediction system at the VA Information Technology Center in Austin, Texas, for 24 months to assess the technology. The system will be able to decompose and understand natural language queries from physicians."

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Image: Courtesy Department of Veteran Affairs