Ryan Vega: VA Harnesses AI, Other Emerging Tech to Improve Veteran Care

Ryan Vega
Ryan Vega

Ryan Vega, executive director of the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem, said the Department of Veterans Affairs harnessed artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies in 2019 to improve the delivery of health services to military retirees, Nextgov reported Thursday.

One of the AI-focused efforts of VA this year was the appointment of Gil Alterovitz, a biomedical informatics professor at Harvard Medical School, as the department’s first AI director in July. “The importance of [hiring Alterovitz] and what having a director means is that it’s the recognition that the organization is going to embrace this—and not run away from it,” Vega said. 

Other AI initiatives VA launched in 2019 are the establishment of the National Artificial Intelligence Institute and introduction of an AI-based mobile application with IBM to help veterans easily navigate the internet to access the department’s resources.

Vega cited VA’s involvement in partnerships to advance innovations. “I think what’s really important about innovation is that it’s a team sport and what hackathons do is bring people together with a common purpose to solve a problem,” he said. VA also collaborated with Walmart, Philips, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars on the Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations project.

Vega said he expects VA to leverage advancements in other emerging tech areas in 2020, such as bioprinting and 5G-enabled tech.

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