As the use of AI becomes more widespread, officials from the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) envision the technology being used to deliver better, innovative medical care to military forces and veterans.

At the Red Hat Government Symposium in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 9, Amanda Purnell, the director of data and analytics innovation at VA, said AI can make it easier for clinicians and care teams to do more “meaningful” work and less administrative work.

“Where I see AI being adopted within the VA is in reducing administrative burden – those just pain points,” Purnell said at the event. “I like to say, because it’s true, that there is no physician, clinician, psychologist who ever got into that field saying what I really want to do is fill out a bunch of forms, and I want to search through piles and piles of data to find what I really need.”

“So, what clinicians and care teams are most readily adopting models for is reducing the administrative work of doing the clinical work so that they can spend the time doing what they really love, which is caring for and interacting with people and helping them to live their highest quality life,” she added.

Similarly, Jesus Caban, the chief of clinical and research informatics at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said he envisions AI being used to help members of the military to live their highest quality life. Oftentimes, he said, AI capabilities could mean the difference between life and death.

“[AI] will change patient outcomes,” Caban said. “I will say that’s one of the greatest areas for innovation in the DoD healthcare side – it is what are we doing at the point of injury.”

Caban explained that if someone is injured in Washington, D.C., they may be a maximum of 15 minutes away from a good emergency room. However, he said when military members are fighting wars “in the middle of nowhere,” it could take a day or two just to reach a hospital.

“There are a lot of opportunities out there for us to be able to go and say, how are we leveraging devices at the point of injury, edge computing, to be able to help – not the doctors at that level or the corpsman – the medics or the patient itself to stay alive for 24 hours, 36 hours until reaching a hospital,” he said.

Caban said AI could enable a medic or patient to enter data, such as a picture of a gunshot wound, and then get in touch with a “helper.” He explained the helper could then say, “based on all this data you’re entering, this patient needs to have X done within the next five minutes to increase the length of the survival by 30 percent.”

“This should be the future,” he added. “I think we need to be looking at those situations and say okay, how can edge computing, how can the predictive models that I have, how all the clinical data that I can have there – the environment, the sensors, and so on – help to keep this patient alive.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.