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Lawmakers explore how artificial intelligence can boost care for vets

Lawmakers on Thursday questioned Department of Veterans Affairs officials on how to better employ artificial intelligence technology to ensure faster and more equitable health care and benefits for veterans.

The VA officials assured the members of a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee that the department is taking a measured approach to adopting and scaling AI solutions for veterans’ care.

“VA is committed to protecting veterans’ data, while responsibly harnessing the promise of AI to better serve veterans,” said Charles Worthington, the chief technology officer and chief artificial intelligence officer in VA’s Office of Information and Technology.

VA is already leveraging AI in a number of ways, from enhancing diagnostic accuracy and efficiency in predicting cancer risks to an initiative to identify veterans with the highest level of suicide risk.

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While the department believes in AI’s enormous potential to provide better health care, quicker benefits decisions and more secure systems, a few lawmakers questioned the best practices that officials are using or plan to take on when employing the technology.

Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., who last month led a separate subcommittee hearing on data privacy and artificial intelligence at VA, asked about the department’s responsibility to notify and receive informed consent from veterans when their information is used with an “AI model,” or when an analysis was completed by AI rather than a person.

Worthington said his office is working with the Veterans Health Administration’s ethics group to develop an approach on that topic, but there is not yet a specific timeline for implementation.

“While AI can be a powerful tool, we must adopt it with proper controls, oversight and security,” he said earlier in the hearing.

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