The Department of Veterans Affairs has initiated a two-year pilot to study innovative approaches to quickly search electronic health records and medical literature for relevant published studies to hasten evidence-based clinical decisions.

Unlocking the value of EHRs and medical literature to provide physicians with a real-time diagnosis of a patient to prescribe a treatment is at the heart of the VA’s pilot. IBM Corp. was selected to provide the technology, which will leverage the company’s Watson supercomputer that is already assisting several healthcare organizations to apply cognitive capabilities in helping doctors identify and analyze cancer treatment options.

For example, Cleveland Clinic is expanding its use of Watson using a newer Genomics Analytics cloud service to help oncologists deliver personalized treatment to cancer patients. The clinic was an early adopter of Watson’s technology, working with IBM to develop a new process to train the supercomputer to interact with clinicians in a more natural way, and to improve clinical decision support.

During the VA’s two-year “Clinical Reasoning Service Implementation and Assessment” pilot, clinical decisions will not be made on actual patient encounters, but instead will use realistic simulations to tap Watson’s expertise in deciding how to treat patients.

“Physicians can save valuable time finding the right information needed to care for their patients with this sophisticated and advanced technology,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., in a written statement. “A tool that can help a clinician quickly collect, combine, and present information will allow them to spend more time listening and interacting with the veteran. This directly supports the patient-centric medicine VA is committed to delivering every day.”

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