U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Taps IBM Watson to Help Accelerate and Enhance Care Delivery

Agency Setting Up New Clinical Reasoning System Based on Watson Cognitive Capabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. - 16 Dec 2014: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (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 healthcare organizations that are working with IBM Watson to help improve efficiency and quality of care being delivered. As part of the multi-year 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 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) are impacted with PTSD. Additionally, 12 percent of Gulf War veterans and 15 percent 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 Electronic Medical Records (EMR), 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 healthcare 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 is recorded, collected and organized across healthcare 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 pre-visit, visit, and post-visit 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,” said Anne Altman, General Manager for U.S. Federal at IBM. “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.”

About VHA

The Veterans Health Administration is home to the United States’ largest integrated healthcare system consisting of 150 medical centers, nearly 1,400 community-based outpatient clinics, community living centers, Vet Centers and Domiciliaries. Together these healthcare facilities and the more than 53,000 independent licensed healthcare practitioners who work within them provide comprehensive care to more than 8.3 million* Veterans each year.

* From the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics — www.va.gov/vetdata

IBM Watson: Pioneering a New Era of Computing

IBM Watson represents a new era of computing in which apps and systems interact with human users more naturally, augment our knowledge with Big Data insights, and learn to improve how they assist us. 

Fueled by innovation from a mission to transform industries and professions, Watson is uniquely positioned at the forefront of the new era of computing, evidenced by an unmatched demonstration of what cognitive systems can bring to transform decision-making. IBM is delivering a range of cloud-based products and services to clients in industries such as banking, healthcare, insurance, retail and education. 

In January 2014, IBM launched the IBM Watson Group, a new business unit dedicated to developing and commercializing cloud-delivered cognitive advisors. The move signifies a strategic shift by IBM to deliver a new class of software, services and apps that think, improve by learning, and discover insights from massive amounts of Big Data.

IBM is investing $1 billion into the Watson Group, focusing on development and research and bringing cloud-delivered cognitive applications and services to market. This includes $100 million available for venture investments to support IBM’s ecosystem of start-ups and businesses building cognitive apps made with Watson.

For more information on IBM Watson, visit: www.ibmwatson.com

To join the social discussion about Watson, include the hashtag #ibmwatson. Follow Watson on Facebook and see Watson on YouTube and Flickr.

Check out the IBM Watson press kit at: http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/presskit/27297.wss

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