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GCN : January 2015
The Department of Veterans Affairs launched a pilot project to test the abil- ity of IBM’s Watson analytics technol- ogy to help VA doctors rapidly sift elec- tronic medical records for treatment and research data that could support clinical decisions in the care of veterans. The VA will also assess how Watson technology, which became famous by competing against Jeopardy! quiz show winners, might help speed data-driven clinical decisions, including those involving post traumatic stress disorder cases. “Physicians can save valuable time finding the right information needed to care for their patients with this sophis- ticated and advanced technology,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy in announcing the project. “A tool that can help clinicians 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 commit- ted to delivering every day,” she added. The VA-Watson project leaders also want to study the potential of the tech- nology for producing relevant medical data at the point of care as well as to reduce the number of systems and tools physicians have to juggle in clini- cal settings. According to IBM, analyzing a single EMR is on a par with scanning up to 100M of structured and unstructured data, much of it in the form of plain text, across a patient’s lifetime of clini- cal notes, labs and treatments. Using Watson, Veterans Health Administration physicians, “can now interact with the data in natural lan- guage, process vast amounts of big data to uncover patterns and insights and learn from each interaction,” said Anne Altman, IBM general manager for U.S . federal in a blog post. During the pilot, clinical decisions will not be made on actual patient en- counters, but instead will use realistic simulations. The project will also use IBM Wat- son Discovery Advisor, a new tool that uses visualization techniques to help uncover patterns in data. The cloud- based service can help accelerate re- search from months to days and hours, IBM said. The VA project isn’t the first time Watson has been enlisted to support healthcare or veterans programs. The company announced in October it was partnering with the Cleveland Clinic to use Watson Genomics to study cancer treatment options based on a patient’s genome. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Tex., both use Watson- based tools in analyzing cancer treat- ments. • VA recruits Watson analytics, cloud to fight PTSD GCN JANUARY 2015 • GCN.COM 11 The National Security Agency released an open source software product that automates data flows among multiple computer networks, even when data formats and protocols differ. As the volume and rate of data grows and as the number of systems, proto- cols, and formats increase, so too does the complexity and need for greater data management insight and agility. Niagarafiles (Nifi) is a dataflow sys- tem based on the concepts of flow- based programming and was designed to manage dataflow in massive distrib- uted computing systems operated by numerous teams and organizations. Joseph L. Witt, the lead developer of Nifi, said it “provides a way to prioritize data flows more effectively and get rid of artificial delays in identifying and transmitting critical information.” Over the past several years, Nifi has developed a strong community of both developers and operators within the U.S . government, according to the Nifi proposal on the Apache Incubator Wiki. In open sourcing Nifi, the NSA lets private sector programmers exam- ine the code, and potentially improve it through additional enhancements and applications. At the same time, the government can gain from their related research advances. The tool could benefit the U.S. pri- vate sector in various ways. For exam- ple, commercial enterprises could use it to quickly control, manage, and analyze the flow of information from geographi- cally dispersed sites – creating compre- hensive situational awareness, the NSA said in its announcement. The Nifi code is available to the public through the Apache Software Foundation. It is the first in a series of releases of in-house software products by NSA’s Technology Transfer Program. “NSA’s innovators work on some of the most challenging national security prob- lems imaginable,” said Linda L. Burger, director of NSA’s tech transfer program. “Their research breakthroughs often have broad, commercial applications, too. We use open source releases to move tech- nology from the lab to the marketplace, making state-of-the-art technology more widely available and aiming to accelerate U.S . economic growth.” In 2011 the NSA’s code for the agency’s Accumulo project was also released through the Apache Software Foundation. • NSA releases open source tool for high-volume data 0115gcn_006-016.indd 11 1/12/15 3:00 PM
November and December 2014