Many people have seen Watson in action when International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM)‘s supercomputer took on several human contestants on the Jeopardy show. But the technology behind Watson can obviously do more than just answer trivia questions on a game show and solve puzzles. IBM has released an announcement on December 16 that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is going to use Watson technology in a pilot program that will help physicians make better medical decisions. The VA is now joining other top healthcare providers around the nation in working together with IBM Watson to make the care they provide more efficient and of higher quality to the patients. One part of the multi-year contract signed with IBM involves having the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) use Watson in supporting veterans who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
According to figures released by the VA, there are around 21.6 million military veterans that reside in the United States. Over 8.3 million people use the VA’s health services every year. PTSD is a serious concern among veterans, as close to 20 percent of those who participated in military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are reported to be affected to it. Furthermore, 12 percent of veterans from the first Gulf War and 15 percent of the nation’s Vietnam War veterans suffer from PTSD.
The amount of medical data stored around the nation doubles every three years and is now growing in both size and complexity now that Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are used by an increasing number of healthcare providers. Watson is going to be used by the VHA to help their clinical staff with this large amount of data. With Watson’s help, physicians will be better equipped to interact with medical data, process relevant patient information and find much-needed details in medical literature, all while uncovering patterns and insights. Watson is also able to learn from each interaction it has with a user. The system can present the most relevant clinical data to medical professionals in just seconds, thus saving time and money, in addition to improving patient care standards.