Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Telehealth: Which One Fits For You? 

A growing number of healthcare practices worldwide are embracing the innovative concept that is telehealth. Telehealth enables both patients and providers to access healthcare via a remote and electronic health platform. As such, providing and receiving care has never been more convenient, opening the healthcare industry to a world of new possibilities. 

Telehealth can come in a variety of forms, the primary two being synchronous and asynchronous. For providers to offer the best and most accessible care possible, they must align their telehealth platform with their patient’s telehealth preferences. To do so, they must have a clear understanding of both synchronous and asynchronous telehealth and determine which method is the best fit for their practice. 

Synchronous Telehealth

 

What comes to mind first when patients think of telehealth or telemedicine is often synchronous telehealth. Synchronous telehealth refers to the live video-conferencing aspect of telehealth, in which patients and providers meet in real-time, typically through video chat. This form of virtual meeting allows both parties to meet in real-time, with some level of face-to-face communication without being physically in-person. As such, this form of meeting requires both parties to be present simultaneously with a communication link that allows the real-time meeting to occur. 

Many patients utilized synchronous telehealth communication for the first time in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and patients had to resort to virtual meetings with their providers to get the care they needed. While synchronous communication may no longer be as necessary today, many practices still utilize it because of its excellent benefits. 

 

Benefits

The synchronous approach of telehealth is advantageous for a variety of reasons, but primarily for its convenience and efficiency. Convenience is a huge factor of synchronous telehealth as it eliminates the need for patients to report to doctor’s appointments in person. This is a tremendous benefit and time-saver for patients who do not live near their provider, are suffering from a contagious ailment, or require regular care for a chronic condition. 

With convenience, patients also have greater access to healthcare, particularly those who do not have the means to commute to their doctor or require time off work and child-care to report to these appointments. As a result, no matter what limitations they may be facing, patients can access the care they deserve. 

In terms of efficiency, synchronous doctor’s appointments are exceptionally more efficient than traditional in-person visits. Synchronous appointments require less time with each appointment, allowing providers to meet with more patients each day. 

While some fear that this would compromise patient care, the opposite is true. Providers can still give patients the care and attention they need without dealing with waiting rooms or interruptions. As providers can still physically see their patients, in addition to their records and medical images, synchronous visits enable assessment, diagnosis, and treatment just as traditional visits can. 

As a result of adopting the synchronous telehealth method, providers can enhance the care they give to patients while drastically improving convenience, accessibility, and efficiency. That being said, there are some essential features of the asynchronous approach to discuss before you decide exclusively on the synchronous approach. 

 

Asynchronous Telehealth

 

In contrast to the synchronous approach, the asynchronous approach is not in real-time. As such, it is often referred to as the store-and-forward approach to video conferencing. This means that rather than participating in a live face-to-face virtual meeting, providers and patients may exchange recorded health communications. While asynchronous telehealth can include pre-recorded messages from patients and providers, the approach extends well beyond that. 

Asynchronous telehealth involves the collecting, uploading, and sharing of medical data between patients and providers and providers with other medical specialists. Data is captured locally and, once uploaded, is stored either permanently or to be transferred at a later time via a secure telehealth platform. 

As these transmissions do not occur in real-time, users are not limited by specific times to conduct data sharing. While the synchronous approach does not limit users by a physical location, this approach does not limit by location or time. 

 

Benefits

Similar to the synchronous approach, the asynchronous approach also offers benefits in efficiency and convenience. The idea of non-real-time healthcare can often be daunting, but it is important to note that the asynchronous approach is not to be used in times of emergency. Instead, asynchronous telehealth is intended to increase the efficiency and convenience of daily and non-emergent healthcare practices. 

Through asynchronous telehealth, patients and providers can access one another and endless healthcare resources, at any time, from any location. This is particularly beneficial in optimizing visits, as providers have all of a patient’s medical information in one centralized location, stored securely with easy access. This ensures that patient care is accurate to their medical records, and patients do not have to worry about carrying and storing physical documents and images. 

Even independent of visits, patients have access to accurate and reliable health resources whenever they may need them. Patients can view their medical records, access treatment options, refill prescriptions, and access a portal of medical specialists available worldwide. As a provider, you can ensure that your patients feel cared for 24/7 without the requirement of constant real-time communication. 

 

Which Method is Right for You? 

 

Both synchronous and asynchronous telehealth approaches are highly beneficial to healthcare practices and their patients. Participants benefit from increased efficiency, convenience, and accessibility through either method, resulting in enhanced patient care. That being said, many healthcare providers are unsure of which approach to implement into their practice. Fortunately, we have the answer: both!

There is no reason that a practice needs to limit itself to only one telehealth approach. Instead, they can supplement their practice with the benefits of both synchronous and asynchronous telehealth. Adopting both approaches provides patients with incredible accessibility and convenience, allowing them access to healthcare at any time or location, from any device. 

As a provider with both approaches integrated into their telehealth platform, it will be easier than ever to offer efficient and high-quality care to your patients. Furthermore, because you can be accessed by patients from any location, with the time to care for more patients, you can expand your practice with ease. Using both methods, providers can efficiently conduct synchronous visits with patients for regular checkups or routine diagnosis, while offering resources, treatment, and prescriptions via asynchronous tools. 

Gone are the days where healthcare was limited by strict schedules and tedious commutes to the doctor. Instead, by adopting both synchronous and asynchronous telehealth approaches, patients and providers can benefit from the future of healthcare. For healthcare providers looking to optimize their practice, a combination of both telehealth approaches is key.


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