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Health Chairwoman Dr. Miller-Meeks Leads the Discussion on AI in VA Healthcare During Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the start of the subcommittee’s oversight hearing on the current state and future potential of Artificial Intelligence use at VA:


Good morning. This oversight hearing for the Subcommittee on Health will now come to order.


Today marks our Subcommittee’s first hearing dedicated to exploring the transformative potential of artificial intelligence in healthcare. This powerful technology is being used in healthcare systems throughout the world.


As a physician and 24-year Army Veteran, I have witnessed the evolution of healthcare in both the military and civilian worlds.


While progress tends to be incremental, occasionally a process or technology emerges that pushes our boundaries out significantly.


The integration of artificial intelligence in healthcare offers this opportunity.


AI creates possibilities to improve diagnostic accuracy, predict and mitigate patient risk, identify appropriate interventions earlier, reduce administrative burden, and save money.


AI, we’re told, promises all.


While AI holds great promise, the reality is that it is a new, developing technology. We are still figuring out what is possible and practical.


A previous Technology Modernization subcommittee hearing addressed the pitfalls of AI, particularly in data privacy.


Today’s hearing will focus on AI’s potential. To tap into that potential, VA must first develop a strategy to use AI, test applications, and finally, procure and implement successful AI across the organization.


As with data privacy, care must be taken when using AI for clinical purposes. If the data AI learns from is incorrect or biased, it can make incorrect predictions that results in an over or under diagnosis…These aren’t just concerns; they have happened in real-life situations outside of the VA.


One promising AI technology for the diagnosis of sepsis, an often-fatal condition with rapid onset, generated alerts for 18% of all hospitalized patients, but completely missed 67% of cases diagnosed.


This kind of error compromises not just efficiency, but patient safety.


We will examine how VA is developing use cases, guided by various executive orders, and how VA plans to implement successful AI use cases at scale across the healthcare enterprise.


Of course, VA and VA health care do not exist in a vacuum. VA is not an island.


AI efforts within the federal government are proceeding in parallel, while private industry is still significantly ahead of the public sector.


Even within VHA, this subcommittee has heard that efforts to use AI are fragmented, with VISNs pursuing individual projects that are sometimes duplicative of VHA’s efforts.


A priority of ours is to ensure VA moves forward with a cohesive strategy synchronized between the VA central office, VHA, VISNs, and VAMCs.


It is also critical that we understand how VA will choose, assess, and implement successful AI projects at scale for the benefit of all veterans, and in conjunction with private sector entities that have already been developing and utilizing this technology for some time.


We are joined by distinguished witnesses from the tech industry, academia, and the VA. Their insight will enlighten our discussion of VA’s use of AI and its potential to augment VA healthcare.


I believe in the promise AI offers, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about their efforts and vision for the future of AI to provide the best care for our nation’s veterans.


With that, I yield to Ranking Member Brownley for her opening statement.

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