Asynchronous telehealth: benefits, applications and comparison to synchronous telehealth
Learn more about the definition, benefits, and applications of asynchronous telehealth. Get a full comparison between synchronous vs asynchronous telehealth.
In recent years, the advancement of technology has revolutionized the way healthcare is delivered, making telehealth a prominent player in the medical landscape.
The global telemedicine market was valued at 87.41 billion dollars and is estimated to grow to 286.22 billion by 20301.
As patients and healthcare providers seek more convenient and accessible alternatives to traditional in-person consultations, both synchronous and asynchronous telehealth have emerged as viable options.
While synchronous telehealth involves real-time interactions between patients and healthcare professionals, asynchronous telehealth offers a unique approach that offers several benefits and applications. In this article, we delve into the world of asynchronous telehealth, exploring its advantages, practical uses, and comparing it to its synchronous counterpart.
A global survey revealed that 74% of patients prefer easy access to healthcare services rather than going in person2. Healthcare providers who have not embraced this technology risk being left behind.
What is asynchronous telehealth?
Asynchronous telehealth is defined as the exchange of healthcare information between patients and providers at different points in time.
Unlike synchronous telehealth, which requires immediate communication, asynchronous telehealth (also known as store and forward telehealth) allows patients and healthcare providers to interact at their own convenience, without the need to be available simultaneously. This flexible approach opens up many possibilities in healthcare delivery, making it particularly valuable in various scenarios.
Benefits of asynchronous telehealth
Asynchronous telemedicine offers numerous benefits that enhance healthcare delivery and improve patient outcomes. Here are some key of its key advantages:
- Increased accessibility
- Shorter wait times
- Enhanced collaboration:
- Flexibility and convenience
- Cost saving
1. Increased accessibility
One of the primary advantages of telehealth is its ability to overcome geographical barriers. Patients in remote or underserved areas can access specialized medical expertise without the need for travel.
Asynchronous telehealth allows patients to submit their medical information, such as images, test results, or symptoms, at their convenience, enabling healthcare providers to review and respond when it suits their schedule. This accessibility empowers patients to receive timely care, regardless of their location.
2. Shorter wait times
Asynchronous telehealth eliminates the need for real-time appointments, which can often involve long wait times. A report from the Greater Access for Patients Partnership revealed that the average patient wait time for a dermatology appointment is 32.3 days3, and the average waiting time to see a pediatric dermatologist is 100 days4.
With store and forward telemedicine, patients can submit their information and await a response from healthcare professionals. This process minimizes waiting periods for consultations, diagnoses, and treatment plans, ensuring faster access to medical care. By reducing delays, asynchronous telehealth improves patient satisfaction and enhances overall healthcare efficiency.
3. Enhanced collaboration
Asynchronous telehealth platforms facilitate effective communication between patients and healthcare providers. Patients can provide detailed descriptions of their symptoms, share images, or provide updates on their condition, allowing healthcare professionals to review and respond with thoughtful insights. Moreover, asynchronous telehealth fosters collaboration among healthcare teams. Primary care physicians can easily share patient information with specialists (such as dermatologists) and these in return can provide valuable input, leading to more comprehensive and holistic care.
According to an Accenture survey, today’s patients are dissatisfied with traditional healthcare and are seeking alternatives to satisfy their requirements5.
4. Flexibility and convenience
Unlike synchronous telemedicine, which requires both parties to be available simultaneously, asynchronous telemedicine allows patients and healthcare providers to engage at their own convenience. This flexibility enables patients to seek medical advice or share updates at any time, eliminating scheduling conflicts and making healthcare more accessible for individuals with busy lifestyles or limited availability. Healthcare providers can review patient information at a time that suits their workflow, ensuring more efficient use of their time and resources.
5. Cost saving
Asynchronous telehealth can lead to cost savings for both patients and healthcare systems. By eliminating the need for travel, patients can avoid transportation expenses and potential time off from work. Additionally, asynchronous telehealth reduces the strain on healthcare facilities by minimizing the need for physical appointments, optimizing resource allocation, and potentially lowering operational costs.
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Applications of asynchronous telehealth
Asynchronous telehealth has a wide range of applications across various healthcare settings. Here are some key applications of asynchronous telehealth:
- Patient triage
- Remote Monitoring
- Second Opinions
- Follow-up care
- Medication management
- Preoperative and postoperative care
- Efficient sharing of medical images and records
1. Patient triage
Asynchronous telehealth offers a huge opportunity to triage patients. Nurse practitioners or other qualified personnel can view the patients’ requests and prioritize those who need urgent care, such as a patient with a history of melanoma having experienced some changes in a particular mole.
2. Remote monitoring
Asynchronous telemedicine enables remote patient monitoring of individuals with chronic illnesses. For example, in the case of dermatology, patients can upload photos of their skin condition, their chief complaint and symptoms to a secure platform. Dermatologists can review this information at their convenience, allowing them to track patients’ progress and make interventions when necessary.
Remote monitoring is particularly valuable for managing chronic conditions, post-operative care, and long-term health management.
3. Second opinions
Asynchronous telehealth facilitates second opinions and consultations between healthcare professionals. By securely sharing patient information, such as medical images, diagnostic reports, or treatment plans, specialists can review cases and provide valuable insights and recommendations. This application is beneficial for complex or rare conditions, allowing patients to access expert opinions without the need for travel or face-to-face appointments.
4. Follow-up care
Asynchronous telemedicine is highly effective for follow-up care after initial consultations or treatments. Patients can share updates on their condition, report any changes or concerns, and provide relevant information to their healthcare providers. This allows providers to remotely assess progress, adjust treatment plans, answer questions, and provide ongoing support. Follow-up care through asynchronous telehealth reduces the need for frequent in-person visits, enhancing convenience for patients while ensuring continuity of care.
5. Medication management
Asynchronous telehealth can support medication management and adherence and virtual prescription renewals. Patients can upload medication lists, record their medication intake, or report any side effects or concerns. Healthcare providers can review this information, assess adherence, and provide guidance or adjustments as needed. Through secure messaging, providers can also address medication-related questions, ensuring safe and effective medication usage.
6. Preoperative and postoperative care
Asynchronous telehealth is valuable for preoperative and postoperative care. Patients can securely share preoperative information, such as medical history, test results, or consent forms, with their healthcare providers. This allows providers to review the information, assess patients’ suitability for surgery, and provide preoperative instructions. Additionally, asynchronous telehealth enables patients to report postoperative symptoms, share wound images, or ask questions about their recovery. Providers can remotely monitor patients’ progress and intervene if any complications arise.
7. Efficient sharing of medical images and records
Asynchronous telehealth simplifies the sharing of medical images and records. Patients can upload photos of diseases visible on the skin, medical test results, or other relevant medical documentation for review by healthcare providers. This facilitates faster and more efficient diagnosis, treatment planning, and collaboration among healthcare professionals.
Synchronous vs asynchronous telehealth: What are the differences?
Synchronous and asynchronous telehealth are two different approaches to delivering healthcare services remotely. Here are their key differences:
- Real-time vs no real-time interaction
- Simultaneous availability vs flexibility
- Immediate vs delayed feedback
- Oral vs text communication
1. Real-time vs no real-time interaction
Synchronous telehealth involves real-time communication between patients and healthcare providers. It typically requires both parties to be available simultaneously, using video conferencing, phone calls, or live chat platforms.
Asynchronous telehealth involves the exchange of healthcare information and patient data between patients and healthcare providers at different times. It does not require immediate or simultaneous availability.
2. Simultaneous availability vs flexibility
Synchronous telehealth requires patients and healthcare providers to be available at the same time for appointments. This can involve potential delays due to conflicting schedules or time zone differences.
Asynchronous telehealth allows patients and healthcare providers to interact at their own convenience. Patients can submit their information, questions, or concerns through secure online platforms, and healthcare providers review and respond to them when it fits their schedule.
3. Immediate vs delayed feedback
With synchronous telehealth, patients can receive immediate feedback and responses from healthcare providers during the virtual consultation. This real-time interaction allows for on-the-spot discussions, clarifications, and treatment decisions.
Unlike synchronous telehealth, where feedback is immediate, asynchronous telehealth involves a delay in feedback as healthcare providers review patient information and respond at a later time.
4. Oral vs text communication
Synchronous telehealth only requires verbal communication utilizing video calls.
Asynchronous telehealth primarily relies on textual communication, such as secure messaging or email, for patients and healthcare providers to exchange information. Patients can provide written descriptions, share images or documents, and ask questions, while healthcare providers respond with written advice, recommendations, or treatment plans.
The table displays the different requirements that store-and-forward and live video conferencing have, which affect their suitability for healthcare delivery in dermatology.6
|Requirements||Asynchronous telehealth||Synchronous telehealth|
|Availability of internet connection||Minimum internet requirements||Broadband internet required for both parties|
|Appointment||No appointment is necessary as evaluation is asynchronous.||Appointment required for synchronous evaluation|
|Webcam or mobile phone camera||Phone camera needed||Video camera needed|
Asynchronous telehealth platform
It is used to deliver virtual care for:
- Patient consultations
- Triage of patients
- Prescription renewal visits
- Follow-up care for patients with chronic skin conditions
The three main benefits of this technology are:
- Reduces the patient waiting time from a few weeks to less than 48 hours
- Gives providers more flexibility on their schedule
- Complements physical appointments