Veterans Affairs turns to AI to solve health care worker burnout

News & Politics

The Department of Veterans Affairs is seeking to adopt innovative artificial intelligence tools to reduce the workload of health care employees and prevent burnout.

On Monday, President Biden released an executive order that issued sweeping regulations on AI technology. It also called for the federal government to focus its efforts on developing advanced AI-powered tools by hiring additional industry professionals.

In response to the administration’s order, the VA launched an “AI Tech Sprint,” a competition challenging automation experts to develop tools that will allow health care staff to streamline their workload.

The competition, posted on the United States General Services Administration’s Challenge.gov website, asked AI professionals to create an automated system capable of taking notes.

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“The primary objective of this AI Tech Sprint is to create an AI-enabled tool that can extract transcripts and key details from ambient recordings of patient encounters in primary care, mental health, and specialty care settings within the Department of Veterans Affairs and then generate documentation for the encounter,” the instructions stated. “The system must leverage conversational and directed voice prompting engineered to generate real time recommendations, retrieve patient and health system information, and create high quality encounter notes.”

The note-taking AI-powered tool should be able to summarize the patient’s visit for medical record-keeping purposes and generate a summary for the patient.

Experts were also challenged to create an AI system that could absorb large numbers of medical records in various formats, allowing health care professionals to easily and quickly access a patient’s medical history.

Gil Alterovitz, the director of the VA’s National Artificial Intelligence Institute, said, “We want to make sure that when they come back to the VA system, they’re able to make use of that information.”

He continued, “And right now, that information may arrive as faxes, may arrive as images in a way that is not ready for easy searches and easy analysis by the provider.”

Technology professionals have until January 5, 2024, to complete the challenge. The prize for the competition is $1 million, to be split among the winners.

Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal stated that he hopes the results from the AI Tech Sprint will reduce health care professionals’ workload.

“Artificial intelligence solutions can help us reduce the time that clinicians spend on non-clinical work, which will get our teams doing more of what they love most: caring for veterans,” Elnahal said. “This effort will reduce burnout among our clinicians and improve veteran health care at the same time.”

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