We all know telehealth is a game changer in the way health professionals deliver services to medically remote patients. But did you know the digital technologies that drive telehealth video conferencing systems also imbue them with a unique function called asynchronous telehealth?
So, what exactly is asynchronous telehealth? First, let’s define its cousin – synchronous telehealth.
What is Synchronous telehealth?
When people use the term telehealth, they are usually referring to synchronous telehealth.
Synchronous telehealth is a real-time consultation between a healthcare professional and patient that is conducted via video conference. Synchronous telehealth is the most common form of telehealth, and it is the cornerstone of remote healthcare, enabling providers and patients to engage.
Via synchronous telehealth, a healthcare provider can discuss a patient’s concerns and health history in real time, perform a remote examination, diagnose a condition, suggest a treatment plan, provide e-prescriptions, refer a patient to a specialist, or arrange an in-person visit, if required.
Telehealth technology allows patient data to be automatically uploaded to a secure electronic health record (EHR) or a general practice management system.
Also called store-and-forward telehealth, asynchronous telehealth provides healthcare workers with greater flexibility and efficiencies in how, when and where they engage with remote patients and collaborate with colleagues.
Telehealth solutions that are embedded with software that supports asynchronous telehealth, enable clinicians to capture clinically important patient images, video, and data in a device at one location, and send it back to a remote physician at a later time. The physician can review the patient data and images at a convenient time through their standard software interface.
Asynchronous telehealth is ideal when input from a healthcare professional at a different location is required, or from a healthcare professional who is scheduled to work in a different time zone.
Asynchronous telehealth also supports clinicians who perform hospital patient rounds and off-site patient visits to areas with poor internet connectivity. In these situations, telehealth technology embedded with store-and-forward capabilities is able to store all patient data during the visit, and it automatically uploads to the general practice management system or EHR when the unit reconnects with the network.
Asynchronous telehealth is also a bonus when the patient, nurse, and doctor are not available at the same time.
Health professionals are very busy and appointments at short notice are often difficult to arrange. With store-and-forward technology, nurses can examine several patients during the day and then connect with the remote doctor toward the end of the day to discuss patients of concern. In this case, the telehealth consultation is between the nurse and the doctor, and patient diagnoses and treatment planning are discussed.
Asynchronous telehealth improves efficiencies and reduces patient wait times. For example, if a healthcare worker needs to outsource patient data to a specialist for diagnosis, or if a smaller hospital needs to forward patient results to another location/time zone for review, asynchronous telehealth allows this to happen without requiring the patient and clinician being simultaneously present.