Artificial Intelligence (AI) might seem like the stuff of science fiction but with all the data available and the ability to store, move, and apply that data, it’s becoming a key tool for healthcare organizations. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a model of excellence for how AI can be used to improve veterans’ healthcare.
According to Nick Psaki, Principal Technology Strategist at Pure Storage, by approaching the integration of AI into specific processes to improve veterans’ healthcare, and building capable AI models that can be trained, they have laid the foundations for success.
“A lot of times people think that an AI algorithm is born and suddenly it knows everything, but the truth is that it goes through the same cognitive processes as any infant that transitions through maturation to be a functioning, thinking entity,” Psaki explained. “Essentially the more data you have, the more homework you’re giving to AI to learn and improve upon… The key to success for a lot of organizations that have been able to successfully leverage AI is that they have vast quantities of data to train against.”
Government healthcare agencies are at a distinct advantage when it comes to training AI models because they have access to massive amounts of data. In a recent interview Gil Alterovitz, Director of National Artificial Intelligence Institute at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) explained how they are using AI to improve the patient experience for veterans.
The VA is the largest integrated healthcare system in the country, serving over nine million veterans. Using data from veterans’ records, the VA is training AI models to improve care for veterans and create a better customer experience. This includes administrative tasks such as speeding up the form approval process, automation of manual tasks, and increasing productivity. However, the agency’s focus is on using AI to improve clinical services such as digital imaging and patient diagnosis, resulting in better patient outcomes.
“In the last few years, we’ve seen artificial intelligence have superhuman capabilities in recognizing, classifying, and understanding the meaning of images,” Alterovitz said. “That has a lot of applications in healthcare, whether you’re diagnosing cancer images or determining a prognosis for how well a patient will do over time if they’re given a certain treatment.”
In a study looking at the clinical applications of AI in cancer imaging, researchers found that AI models excel in “recognizing complex patterns in images” and consequently provide “the opportunity to transform image interpretation from a purely qualitative and subjective task to one that is quantifiable and effortlessly reproducible”. Additionally, AI can also “quantify information from images that is not detectable by humans and thereby complement clinical decision making.”
More importantly, the AI models can learn and perform with higher accuracy as new information, treatment methods, and data becomes available. The adaptability of AI models helped healthcare providers to address new variants and challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re actually learning new things from artificial intelligence itself that none of us knew [before]…” Alterovitz marveled. The continued use of AI gives the healthcare providers access to real time information. Providers can see how AI models have evolved over time and what elements brought those changes. Insights gained from AI can affect how providers approach health crises, patient care and diagnosis, and improve the patient experience.
“What can be known and processed becomes apparent to us [with AI] and that’s going to have an impact on what we want an algorithm to adapt to or what algorithm we’ll decide to adapt,” Psaki said.
The VA and other healthcare-focused agencies need to be able to share data seamlessly and securely with other agencies and partners in order to continue to improve the performance of AI models. Given that AI models are built and trained using patient data, which can include personally identifiable information, it’s essential to make sure that this data is stored and shared securely. By ensuring the secure and seamless sharing of data, AI can help to fundamentally transform veterans’ healthcare.
The future of healthcare is driven by data. AI can provide valuable insights to healthcare providers to help them adapt to new challenges, diagnose and treat patients, and improve the patient experience.
Learn more about how AI can help improve the patient experience here.