Millions of people each year owe their lives to ER doctors and teams, and yet nearly every ER, including those in urban areas, are overcrowded, with too few rooms, doctors, nurses and equipment. The ER relies on other departments within hospitals and medical centers to deliver care, including the radiology department.

Emergency departments have waves of people coming in by ambulance, by car, on foot, by helicopter. It is, of course, impossible to predict what will happen every day (and night), and the level of severity of wounds. At major trauma centers, as we saw most tragically in Las Vegas earlier this year, while there is more capacity to serve people, having systems backing up the professionals makes a huge difference.

In Las Vegas, some orthopedic surgeons, for example, operated on more than 200 people in less than a 48-hour period, and spared arms, legs, hands – and lives.

These amazing and inspiring surgeons can never get the job done alone. Orthodpedic surgery is one of the most challenging types, with a keen requirement for understanding how to reconstruct damaged bones and joints with as little damage as possible to surrounding tendons, veins, tissue, and more.

Xrays and MRIs are mission critical to being able to quickly understand what is happening in the wound, beneath the surface, before determining the best course of treatment (an in the case of the Las Vegas shooting and other terrorist attacks, major accidents and natural disasters – also performing triage with adequate data).

Whether there are dozens or hundreds of people moving around a busy ER, the atmosphere is chaotic and confusing. Charts can be misplaced, specimens may not get to the lab, doctors cannot find imaging reports or have to wait for hours to receive them.

Visionary emergency room leaders today are developing new models of workflow, and are investing in better, faster and ultimately less risky and expensive technology than is available today.

We are working with those innovators to bring a new solution into service, one which uses IBM Watson to help collect, securely share and even diagnose x-rays, MRIs, CT scans and other digital medical imaging.

Improving ERs in the US and globally is a complex challenge, but we can make great progress by identifying initial areas where things like faster imaging access can be put in place (then expanded throughout the system). Time is money – but in the case of the ER, and in the case of orthopedic ER surgeons – time is also the difference between keeping or losing a leg, and keeping or losing a life.

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