Synchronous and asynchronous telehealth services are two different remote methods for managing patient care. Both techniques are useful, saving time for providers and patients alike. Both types of telehealth work best when used together, without resorting to an “either/or” approach.
With synchronous communication, a doctor visits a patient in real time over a live video feed. With asynchronous telehealth, the patient sends images or information to the provider, who then reviews the materials at a later time.
The rise of telehealth
In the first three months of 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic signaled a 50% increase in telehealth visits across the United States. Since then, telehealth has continued to gain prevalence as a healthcare management tool. Understanding how to leverage synchronous and asynchronous telemedicine in the most situationally appropriate ways can help physicians bring the clinic’s front door to the patient.
Below, you’ll learn the differences and unique applications of synchronous and asynchronous healthcare. You’ll also see the benefits each approach brings to the provider’s workflow and the patient’s experience.
What is synchronous telehealth?
Synchronous telehealth is remote healthcare technology that lets physicians check in with patients and administer medical advice through video and audio-conferencing tools. During an on-demand video visit, a primary care provider can consult with a patient to facilitate diagnosis, devise treatment plans, and write prescriptions.
During the live-video consultation, providers can assess patient comfort and monitor ongoing symptoms. They can also carry out post-care, follow-up appointments through successive telehealth visits.
Before a telehealth visit, a healthcare provider can send diagnostic instruments to the patient to support the accuracy of diagnoses. These instruments may include:
blood pressure monitors
heart rate monitors
What is asynchronous telehealth?
Asynchronous telehealth, also referred to as asynchronous telemedicine, is a “store-and-forward” method of virtual care in which patients send information to a provider for later review. Patients submit health information, photos, and history through a patient portal. The doctor can then review this information as time allows.
Asynchronous telehealth respects both the patient’s and the physician’s time by letting patients share key details outside of in-person or telehealth appointments. Providers and clinicians can use the information they receive to make referrals or set up consultations as needed.
The difference between synchronous vs. asynchronous telehealth
Synchronous telehealth is a live, remote exchange of patient information through direct, real-time interaction between a physician and a patient. Asynchronous health is a “store-and-forward” approach where the patient shares info through a patient portal and the provider reviews it later.
Synchronous and asynchronous telehealth solutions serve the same goals in different ways.
Benefits of asynchronous telehealth
While most provider-patient contact in telehealth is synchronous, asynchronous telehealth supports the dialogue between practitioner and patient by supplying additional information. It saves on valuable hours of on-demand video consultations and provides extra processing time outside of in-person and virtual visits for healthcare professionals to make data-driven diagnoses.
Synchronous telehealth involves more direct administration of healthcare, including prescriptions, advice, and diagnostics. Yet some research has shown that asynchronous telehealth can be just as effective as live video consultations for managing some conditions such as erectile dysfunction.
Asynchronous telehealth improves physician workflows by removing bottlenecks, automating processes, and reducing unnecessary phone contact.
Benefits of synchronous telehealth
On-demand video consultations remove a significant scheduling obstacle for patients, bypassing the need for a commute to and from a brick-and-mortar clinic and providing a less intrusive course of treatment.
For providers, this added efficiency helps reduce patient no-shows and can improve patient retention. Providers can also access a wider range of business opportunities by offering consultations outside of traditional business hours. Finally, they can reach new patients and expand their patient base beyond the clinic’s geographical area.
Ways to leverage synchronous or asynchronous telehealth applications
Ideally, synchronous and asynchronous telehealth work together to meet patient needs without complicating the care process.
For example, if a patient has a persistent or painful rash, the asynchronous telehealth process lets them upload images of the condition and describe its symptoms when they book an appointment through the patient portal.
The information requested from a patient may take the following forms during the data gathering process:
online quizzes and forms
photos or videos of wounds or visible symptoms
video clips of physical therapy stretches and exercise
prerecorded information like previous MRI or X ray scans
AI screening bots that triage patients ahead of care
Doctors can then decrease their inbox size by:
Referring cases to a specialist who can more accurately guide the patient journey
Recommending at-home care solutions by text or video message if immediate intervention is not required
Arranging a video consultation only when necessary
Naturally, many patients have questions they want answered, and healthcare objectives that require further consultation. Those patients who use the asynchronous telehealth process by providing information ahead of time will find that their providers have a deeper knowledge of their medical needs during remote visits. As an added benefit, providers can tailor a care plan that fits the patient’s lifestyle, schedule, and comfort expectations.
While fulfilling the treatment plan, providers can follow up on the efficacy of the prescribed treatment in synchronous live video calls. This allows for time savings for both the provider and the patient.
When to use synchronous vs asynchronous telehealth?
Synchronous and asynchronous telehealth work best when asynchronous telehealth services fulfill a supportive function. In this arrangement, asynchronous telehealth supports the active diagnostics and treatment that physicians administer during synchronous video calls.
Use asynchronous telehealth to support care
Asynchronous data gathering gives patients more autonomy over submitting information and scheduling visits. For that reason, it should be as fully available in the patient portal as possible. Asynchronous telehealth works best as a way to remove obstacles from physicians’ workloads. Ideally, it optimizes the flexibility and accessibility of synchronous video consultations.
Use synchronous telehealth to provide care
Synchronous telehealth works best at more advanced stages of the patient journey. Video visits can save time when a condition requires deeper exploration and direct provider-patient contact.
Implementing a virtual consultation service structured around asynchronously sourced patient information is the best strategy for establishing an efficient telehealth infrastructure.
Wheel lets providers and patients access both asynchronous and synchronous virtual consultation tools, including:
on-demand video and audio visits
built-in payment processing
remote lab test reviews and follow up consultations
Wheel’s modular platform offers a complete approach to telehealth. Providers can add or remove the platform’s functions and features as needed, so they can easily strike a balance between both types of telehealth that works for their administrative setup.
Find out more and request a demo of Wheel today.