As a poster child for failing to employ technology in pursuit of organisational improvement, it's hard to find a better example than the US Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA).
The VA has been hammered for the better part of the past three years for its miserable mismanagement of medical claims, mostly blamed on an antiquated manual record-keeping system that would be right at home in a Jose Saramago novel.
So it is no small accomplishment that the VA has found its way to a joint venture with IBM that will see the formidable power of Big Blue's Watson cognitive computing system enlisted to help America's veterans.
While there are no immediate plans to use Watson to ease the crushing backlog of cases at the VA, Watson will focus on a significant problem for the agency: dealing with the large number of vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The $16m(£20.2m) contract announced this week calls for a two-year pilot in which Watson's Discovery Advisor will be used to process data and research to uncover patterns.
Watson will also help navigate and organise electronic medical records and combine it with relevant research data to "accelerate evidence-based clinical decisions", officials said.
"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 Clancy.
"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."
According to the VA, between 11 and 20 per cent of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are diagnosed with PTSD annually. The agency estimates that about 30 per cent of Vietnam War veterans have suffered from PTSD in their lifetime.
"There's no more important challenge than improving healthcare for our veterans." said Anne Altman, general manager for US Federal at IBM.
"We've seen how Watson can assist medical professionals and make it easier for them to capture insight from so many sources and make more informed decisions."
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