It’s been an exciting year working with IBM Watson, building Telemedco’s first solution for AI-enhanced emergency rooms.

While it is fascinating to study all that IBM Watson has been able to accomplish using artificial intelligence, deep machine learning, precise diagnosis techniques and more – the bottom line for the hospitals we are in discussions with is improving operational efficiency while reducing costs and improving outcomes.

ERs are expensive to build, maintain, staff and audit (to ensure compliance with important standards like HIPAA). With increasing pressures from expanding populations and an ongoing challenge with uninsured or underinsured patients coming to the ER rather than seeking ongoing care for chronic illnesses, both for-profit and non-profit hospitals and medical centers are looking for ways to manage volume while controlling expenses.

This is where IBM Watson, and partners like Telemedco, come in.

IBM Watson brings more than just the software to the challenges. They have expert consultants in:

  • Clinical and operational best practices
  • Organizational health frameworks
  • Program evaluation
  • Required metrics and reporting
  • Growth strategy development
  • Lean enterprise transformation
  • RWE-based health economics and outcomes research

Their acquisition of Truven has dramatically enhanced their offerings, and their bench of all-star experts, including emergency care.

In an October 24, 2017 commentary in Modern Healthcare, Mike Boswood, general manager of value-based care for IBM Watson Health and president and CEO of Truven Health Analytics, an IBM company wrote that “While the future of the Affordable Care Act is still uncertain, a number of initiatives that began under the law have shown the kinds of results that transcend politics and will keep the focus on value over volume.”

Boswood went on to talk about addressing changes from fee-for-service to performance-based contracts, saying “a focus on the quality of outcomes, efficiency of care delivery and reduction in cost should remain imperative.”


Boswood cited the IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals study which found that “the leading hospitals, as a cohort, have become more balanced across key performance domains for organization-wide strength. Our study found that double-digit percentages of hospitals are leading significant improvement across performance domains: clinical, financial, efficiency and the customer perception of care.”

While changes, including better integration of software systems, are important to flow entire, often complex hospital systems, the ER is a great place to start. ER visits have skyrocketed – take a look at this infographic from George Washington University (see below – embed infographic).

Focusing on improving the speed and efficiency of ERs through more automation and assistance from technology including Watson’s super computer, reduces wait times, improves the speed and accuracy of diagnoses, frees up physicians and nurses to spend time with patients rather than paperwork and ultimately reduces the cost of care while improving outcomes.

Watson combined with telehealth application also holds great promise as a significant component of this solution. We have monitored the use of telemedicine by New York Presbyterian Hospital for a year now and the results are extremely promising.

We have learned a great deal working with the team at IBM Watson, and are continuing to evolve our first solution and add a second (a solution specifically related to generating faster imaging results that are sent immediately into the patient’s electronic medical record and made available to ER doctors and surgeons within minutes, not hours).

The more we learn, the more enthusiastic we become about the development our team is doing. We know it will make a huge difference, including in the bottom line.

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