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Va Researchers Seek Answers to Unexplained Illnesses Through Technology


Department of Veterans Affairs researcher Matthew Samore

Matthew Samore is using the intersection of medicine, computer science and social research to study veterans who are suffering from various unexplainable illnesses.

Credit: Al Hartmann / The Salt Lake Tribune

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers are using a combination of medical expertise, computer science, and social research techniques to extract information from millions of clinical notes. The goal is to identify patterns in symptoms that might help physicians treat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan whose conditions are otherwise unexplainable.

Researchers have been trying for years to obtain medical records held by the VA, but concerns about privacy have limited those who could access VA records. However, a new system, called the Veterans' Informatics and Computing Infrastructure (VINCI), provides researchers with a secure, virtual working environment in which they can use data taken from VA patient records. The system, developed by VA's Matthew Samore, is designed to prevent the loss or misuse of confidential patient information.

"The VA is absolutely adamant about protecting the information in those records," says VINCI program manager Tori Barrett. Researchers are only allowed to access and work with the data within VINCI's virtual environment.

From The Salt Lake Tribune
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