VA Partners with DeepMind to Use AI to Identify Deterioration Risk Factors

Feb. 26, 2018
The VA is partnering with Google's DeepMind, a London-based artificial intelligence research company, to develop and use machine learning algorithms to address the issue of patient deterioration during hospital care.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has approved a medical research partnership with DeepMind, a London-based artificial intelligence research company, to develop and use machine learning algorithms to address the global issue of patient deterioration during hospital care.

DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014 and is now part of the Alphabet group, Google’s parent company.

The partnership will focus on analyzing patterns from approximately 700,000 historical, de-personalized health records to develop machine learning algorithms that will accurately identify risk factors for patient deterioration and predict its onset. According to the VA, patient deterioration accounts for 11 percent of in-hospital deaths around the world. Initial work will be focused on identifying the most common signs of risk, like acute kidney injury, a problem that can lead to dialysis or death, but is preventable if detected early.

According to a DeepMind press release, acute kidney injury is one of the most common conditions associated with patient deterioration, and an area where DeepMind and the VA both have expertise. “This is a complex challenge, because predicting AKI is far from easy. Not only is the onset of AKI sudden and often asymptomatic, but the risk factors associated with it are commonplace throughout hospitals. AKI can also strike people of any age, and frequently occurs following routine procedures and operations like a hip replacement,” the company stated in a press release. “Our goal is to find ways to improve the algorithms currently used to detect AKI and allow doctors and nurses to intervene sooner,” DeepMind officials said.

“Medicine is more than treating patients’ problems,” VA Secretary David J. Shulkin, said in a statement. “Clinicians need to be able to identify risks to help prevent disease. This collaboration is an opportunity to advance the quality of care for our nation’s Veterans by predicting deterioration and applying interventions early.” 

Eventually, similar approaches will be applied to other signs of patient deterioration, leading to improved care for many more patients, with fewer people developing serious infections and conditions.

“We are proud to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs on this important challenge,” Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind, said in a prepared statement. “This project has great potential intelligently to detect and prevent deterioration before patients show serious signs of illness. Speed is vital when a patient is deteriorating: The sooner the right information reaches the right clinician, the sooner the patient can be given the right care.”

DeepMind has already partnered with hospitals in the United Kingdom to apply its machine-learning algorithms to research projects looking at eye disease, head and neck cancer, and mammography. 

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