In the fee-for-service era, healthcare providers focused on those who were present in the clinic — that is, those who made and showed up for an appointment. However, the question today becomes "Who hasn't been seen in the clinic?"

In the age of payments being tied to outcomes and the management of populations with chronic conditions, providers are turning their attention to those with increased risk of poor outcomes and/or readmissions.

Some innovative healthcare leaders have asked the question of who isn't being seen, or who is experiencing barriers or challenges that may also impact outcomes. Often, the solution to these problems is telehealth.

Recent examples of how these leaders are applying telehealth technologies as solutions include:

  • post-operative visits to reduce unnecessary travel
  • allied health services, such as occupational/speech/physical therapy and health education delivered at school, home or the workplace
  • wound care and support for family caregivers
  • virtual urgent care in the workplace

While many of these applications are truly exciting especially for those patients who are challenged by the traditional healthcare delivery system there are other examples where telemedicine capabilities are being combined with other technologies for real disruption that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of care.

In the areas of teledermatology, telepathology and telepsychology, visual search technology is being applied for rapid scanning and analysis of pictures that are then compared and matched with images in large digital libraries.

Visualdx, has integrated visual search with telemedicine to capture even subtle variation to help emergency room and other providers develop differential diagnosis for patients presenting with conditions of the skin. It has been so successful in improving the accuracy of dermalogical diagnosis, that it is being used in more than 1,300 locations and in 15 percent of all emergency departments in the nation.

InTouch and iSchemaView's RAPID have partnered to integrate their telemedicine and advanced diagnostic imaging technologies to facilitate improved access to specialized care when every second matters. The new tool helps teleneurologists instantly identify how fast a stroke is growing, how much brain tissue is salvageable and where the brain has been irreversibility damaged. It is making even faster diagnosis possible and helping to reduce poor stroke outcomes and the costs of disability and rehab

Rural or remote communities, as well as some urban environments, create inherent risk and sometimes barriers for patients traveling for care. One device on the market, Medwand, is helping bring diagnostic testing to patients when the availability of licensed providers is limited. It allows providers to remotely hear heart and lungs, look at ears, eyes, noses or throat and take pulse and temperature from home, work, school or other environments and captures clinical data for trending and analysis.

These innovative and disruptive telemedicine applications are helping to balance access and make the most efficient and effective use of provider time, as well as providing increased convenience for patients and their family caregivers.

Healthcare leaders who are exploring these and other innovative technologies especially those responsible for underserved populations and wanting to limit poor outcomes are making a choice to invest in their mission, so they can realize cost savings in the future.