VA taps into Energy’s supercomputers for big data project on health

The Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. (Department of Energy)

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The departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs will team up to improve health outcomes using supercomputers to process big data on veterans.

The two departments Monday announced the VA-DOE Big Data Science Initiative, which will be based in Energy’s National Laboratory system. With some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world at their disposal —capable of processing millions of billions of calculations per second — the labs will help the VA analyze the digital health and genomic data of the more than 500,000 veteran volunteers it has collected through its Million Veteran Program to advance research in areas like suicide prevention, cancer and heart disease.

“We are partnering with DOE to use their high-performance computing capabilities to allow thousands of researchers access to this unprecedented data resource over time in a secure environment,” VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a statement. “The transformative science that will be developed through this partnership will improve health care for Veterans and all Americans.”

The program will also use data from the Department of Defense, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Center for Disease Control’s National Death Index.

VA and DOE already have several pilot research programs planned under the larger partnership. The departments will look to create algorithms generate personalized suicide risk scores for veterans, who as a population commit suicide at a rate of 22 per day, according to the VA.

The VA and DOE will also look to battle prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease through other planned pilot programs.

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big data, Department of Veterans Affairs, Energy Department, Health big data, health care, National Labs, Science, VA