When people think of telehealth, they usually imagine live streaming consultations with a doctor in which a regular exam visit takes place, just remotely. This is synchronous, or real-time telehealth. However, there is another important way in which telehealth is provided – asynchronous care, which can be accessed at any time.
Asynchronous communication is already common in our social and professional lives. When we send a text message or voice note, the recipient is free to listen and respond at their convenience. Applications like Google Docs enable colleagues to remotely and asynchronously collaborate without live interaction. These and other forms of asynchronous communication prioritize convenience and access.
Asynchronous communication plays a vital role in medical care as well. Asynchronous care uses technology to collect and send healthcare data and allow for patient monitoring. Patients typically fill out online health questionnaires or use an app to monitor their vitals. Asynchronous care models let physicians track patients’ chronic conditions or monitor their recovery after a surgical procedure.
With asynchronous healthcare, physicians and patients don’t have to align their schedules with one another. Patients can capture their own health data when they need to or when it is convenient for them. Patient stats are tracked and transmitted over a certain period of time, giving caregivers important insights into health patterns. Asynchronous care also affords physicians the time to develop a well-researched diagnosis and treatment plan without the pressure of an overloaded schedule.
Asynchronous care allows patients to be seen by busy specialists, for whom wait times can often be prohibitive. In areas in which there is a shortage of medical specialists, shortening these wait times can be lifesaving. Asynchronous care can also overcome cultural and communication barriers that occur when patients and physicians speak different languages.
Patients can receive follow-up care instructions from physicians through email, so they can be printed or saved to be easily referred to in the future. This information can also be stored securely in a patient’s EHR, enabling other caregivers to access or reference it as needed. Asynchronous care is especially practical in cases that require imaging, such as eye screenings for diabetics or dermatological conditions that must be monitored over time.
In one use case, a leading insurer sought to further streamline its telehealth offering. The insurer employed asynchronous telemedicine, avoiding the need for live communication in most cases. The results saved significant physician time without compromising on care quality. Customer feedback was favorable and the approach yielded significant cost reduction.
In this care model, patients independently conducted at-home physical exams using a TytoCare device and accompanying mobile app. Straightforward instructions and audio-visual guidance made it simple to carry out offline, at-home exams, even for patients who aren’t tech-savvy.
Built-in AI capabilities confirmed that the exam data was obtained accurately to enable a doctor’s diagnosis. Through the asynchronous “store and forward” approach, recorded exam information was sent online to triage nurses who confirmed the data’s validity and carried out a brief patient intake to determine whether a live consultation was warranted.
A physician then reviewed the data, determined the diagnosis, and finalized the exam. The episode could then be documented in the patient’s EHR and a prescription written if necessary. If a more extensive visit was required, the physician could conduct a live, synchronous exam with the patient, after which a diagnosis could be made and logged.
The results of the pilot project were overwhelmingly positive. 90% of members carried out at least one asynchronous care visit using TytoCare. The integrated triage workflow allowed the insurer to streamline services, saving time for patients and physicians. TytoCare-generated data integrated seamlessly into a patient’s EHR to enable optimal patient monitoring.
Over a thousand asynchronous exams were logged during the three-month pilot project. Over 96% of cases were resolved with just a brief physician phone call. By comparison, in-office visits usually take 15 minutes of a physician’s time, not to mention the time spent by patients traveling, waiting, and undergoing the appointment. Fewer than 3.5% of the total patients in the pilot needed a full, live online visit, and those who did took an average of 8 minutes. When asked how satisfied they were with TytoCare’s home-based service, 88% of members rated their experience with 4 or 5 stars.
Asynchronous care eases the burden on caregivers and receives high marks from patients who enjoy quality care without the wait times that in-person or synchronous telehealth can incur. Many urgent and primary care visits can easily be resolved through asynchronous care, with a triage plan in place for when follow-up care is needed. As virtual medicine moves forward, it becomes clear that asynchronous care is an important part of any comprehensive offering.
Learn more about how health insurers are leveraging asynchronous exams to further their telehealth offering here.