AI’s value is not yet clear in benefits administration, says VA

Dr. Kaeli Yuen, the Veterans Affairs artificial intelligence product lead within the VA Office of Information and Technology’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, provided an update on the agency’s assessment of various AI pilots at an American Council of Technology-Industry Advisory Council’s Federal Insights Exchange meeting in Washington, D.C., this week.


Yuen said that while many veterans are skeptical about recording their doctors’ visits, doctors are enthusiastic, according to a report from MeriTalk, a public-private partnership.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Dr. Susan Kirsh, the VA’s deputy undersecretary for health for discovery, education and affiliated networks, added in the article.

Yuen said the VA is working to balance the “privacy and security that veterans expect, and providing them with the ease of experience.”

The forum brings government employees together to improve government outcomes. On May 29, ACT-IAC hosted Yuen and Kirsch for an FIE event focusing on the VA’s journey to enhance veterans’ care by leveraging AI.

In 2021, more than 20 VA offices developed the agency’s AI strategy, becoming one of the first federal agencies with an AI roadmap, which led to pilot testing AI for use during clinical encounters and for benefits administration.

Yuen said many offices within the VA are requesting genAI tools to draft correspondence and documents and summarize information like the veteran user experience survey data, according to the story.

“People from all over VA want this,” she said.

However, experimenting with generative AI interfaces to help address the VA’s overall administrative burden is challenged by how to measure success with pre-existing workflows, Yuen said.

“I think what we’re doing is applying the tools to a process that is built without those tools in mind and maybe there’s a different way we should be doing things,” she said.


The burden of clinical documentation is at the top of clinicians’ minds, according to Whende Carroll, clinical informatics advisor at HIMSS, the parent company of Healthcare IT News, at the 2023 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition.

The fatigue it causes doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers can exacerbate adverse events, increase errors and result in “complications” that cause poor patient outcomes, she said.

While Carroll said AI, specifically natural language processing, can reduce waste and help with the medical documentation productivity that causes clinicians’ fatigue, genAI has been found to result in lengthy and overly complex reports and an increased risk of errors in government reporting. 

Srini Iyer, chief technical officer at Leidos Health & Civil Sector, said ahead of his HIMSS24 presentation on designing genAI to maximize benefits to healthcare organizations that while testing Google’s Med-PaLM 2 – a chatbot piloted by the Mayo Clinic and others that federal lawmakers have questioned – his team encountered challenges.

They focused on the top three needs of healthcare provider executives for use case testing, Iyer said. 

By using the Leidos vector store, the researchers got better results testing Med-PaLM 2 for accuracy, he noted. Using the specialized storage was ideal because it allowed the large language model to search for relationships among unstructured data points – which helped it remember those relationships over time, he explained.

The volume of information and complexity can increase the risk of errors, such as in mandated regulatory reporting, “potentially impacting patient care and reimbursement,” said Iyer.


“I think I can speak for local communities, we want to spend all of our time taking care of the patients,” Kirsch said in the MeriTalk article.

“And the documentation over the years has gotten to be pretty high. So, this is something that is transformative.”

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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