We’re thrilled to be part of the very first Telehealth Awareness Week, organized by the American Telemedicine Association. As organizations across the globe emerge from the challenges of the past year or so, telemedicine is transforming the way care is delivered.
“Now is the time to permanently expand access to these services for the millions of people in the U.S. who need a safe, effective, and convenient option to access their care,” said Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, Chair of the Board of the ATA, Professor of Dermatology, Harvard Medical School, and Editor-in-Chief, npj Digital Medicine. “The COVID-19 public health emergency has put a new and much needed spotlight on the benefits telehealth can have in patient care.”
Taking the first step: Understanding the value of asynchronous care
There’s a lot to consider when evaluating telemedicine vendors and reviewing various virtual care solutions. Consumer expectations have shifted as a result of more personalized, on-demand solutions, like Netflix and even the experience of getting groceries delivered through an app, which many more people have done during the pandemic. Physician burnout also continues to be a challenge, while nursing and provider shortages grow, forcing organizations to identify new solutions for efficiency while continuing to ensure top-quality care.
Today, asynchronous telehealth—such as online clinical interview forms, or messaging with a provider—has been propelled into the spotlight. The challenge? Many health executives, providers, and consumers are still unfamiliar with how asynchronous virtual care works—or with how best-in-class asynchronous care solutions can work. According to an Optum Consumer Panel survey conducted in December, 2020, just 20 percent of consumers have used asynchronous telemedicine prior to the pandemic, but 87 percent of patients who had an asynchronous visit with a provider say they would use it again, proving its potential.
Here’s why leading health systems have implemented asynchronous telehealth as a key tool for improving care delivery:
- Asynchronous virtual care—due to its proven ability to improve efficiencies—is being used to address physician burnout and clinical shortages as a result of the pandemic.
- It is uniquely positioned to function as both a digital front door to a health system, and a modality for addressing common concerns like flu symptoms, rashes, or ear pain.
- In addition to answering patient appetite for on-demand offerings, asynchronous telemedicine platforms help health systems remain competitive against consumer healthcare offerings growing in popularity, such as Walmart Health and Amazon Care.
- Unlike virtual care solutions that require video, asynchronous telehealth can create efficiencies by not relying on direct, real-time interaction with a patient.
- By streamlining clinical workflows, decreasing patient time to care, and increasing the number of patients seen, asynchronous virtual care can also help drive revenue.
What is asynchronous telemedicine?
Asynchronous technology is considered to be one of four modalities in telehealth. Importantly, it can standalone for effective care delivery for hundreds of low-acuity conditions, or can be paired with another modality of virtual telemedicine to streamline care, including synchronous telehealth, mobile health, or remote patient monitoring (RPM).
According to Advisory Board, asynchronous technology allows for remote, non-real-time communication between providers and patients. Unlike video-based telehealth programs that require patient and provider to be on screen at the same time, asynchronous telehealth solutions—often called “store-and-forward” platforms in policies and regulation—aren’t as rigid, and instead allow a patient or provider to access a platform when and where they want.
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Common types of asynchronous telehealth
- Virtual clinical interviews with dynamically-changing content reviewed by a provider
- Secure messaging or emails with providers
- Digital intake forms
- Online chats with a human provider
Often, asynchronous technology collects and stores a patient’s data in a secured, cloud-based virtual care platform which is later viewed by their clinician—even just seconds or minutes later. Based on the platform of choice, specific protocols or workflows are developed to ensure consistent, quality care. Data collected from the patient can include intake interviews, medical images, health history, allergies, or any additional health parameters. AI-powered asynchronous platforms can then generate an array of potential diagnoses for common concerns and a suggested care plan.
With Bright.md’s solution, there’s always a provider on the other end of the technology: the provider reviews the information shared by the patient, approves or changes the diagnosis, and determines the appropriate course of patient care and follow-up.
Compared to synchronous telehealth like a video visit, asynchronous communication decouples the components of the patient-provider interaction, so they can occur at different times at the convenience of the participating parties. This approach is ideal for evidenced-based care, where providers are able to gather all of the information on a patient, analyze the data, match it to evidence-based care, and make an effective diagnosis.
And that is how the magic happens. Asynchronous telehealth has the power to reduce the administrative burden on providers by integrating into existing workflows in their Electronic Health Record (EHR). This means providers can deliver quality care to patients in about three minutes or less on average with asynchronous telehealth, compared with more than 20 minutes for a standard synchronous visit.
For patients with common conditions that make up more than half of urgent or primary care visits—think rashes, UTIs, the flu or common cold, ear or eye pain—asynchronous telehealth gives them a diagnosis and treatment plan from a provider anywhere, anytime.
As healthcare delivery organizations consider what virtual care solutions can make the biggest impact to meet long-term business goals, asynchronous care is no longer a nice-to-have, but an imperative.
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