Asynchronous vs Synchronous Telehealth: Key Insights for Providers

Clearstep Media
Clearstep Team

Asynchronous and synchronous telehealth are two different approaches to managing patient care. Both types of telehealth are useful, saving time, money, and resources for patients and providers alike.

We’ll explore what these terms mean, discuss their benefits for healthcare providers, and help you determine whether you should use asynchronous telehealth, synchronous telehealth, or both in your organization.

Running short on time? Get your demo of Clearstep here—Learn how we help providers optimize their asynchronous and synchronous telehealth solutions.

Related: Optimizing Digital Patient Experiences

What is Asynchronous Telehealth?

Asynchronous telehealth is a “store-and-forward” method, meaning that patients send information to their provider for later review. With this telehealth model, the communication between patient and provider isn’t happening in real time.

In asynchronous telehealth, patient information is stored securely—which is particularly beneficial for providers concerned about security. 

From a patient’s point of view, asynchronous telehealth allows them to engage with their healthcare provider in a setting and at a time that’s convenient for them.

Some common examples of asynchronous telehealth include:

  • Document sharing (results from an MRI, X-Ray, etc.)
  • Online symptom checking
  • Patient report sharing
  • Texting between patients and providers
  • Physical therapy exercise video sharing

Benefits for Healthcare Providers

While most provider-patient communication in telehealth is synchronous, asynchronous forms of telehealth can support communication further by supplying additional information to providers.

Asynchronous telehealth can help streamline patient workflows with its direct-to-patient approach by:

  • Saving providers time: Using online forms for patient intake and follow-ups and storing that data for later use can help streamline the onboarding process significantly. Standardized intake forms and follow-up procedures ensure that every patient receives consistent care. Asynchronous telehealth allows providers to collect the essential data from each patient and store it all in a secure, single place.
  • Automating tasks: Asynchronous telehealth eliminates the need to try to reach patients over the phone. Instead, providers can schedule forms and messages to be sent directly to patients based on their responses and appointment times. By automating these tasks, providers can ensure their patients get timely, customized messages that focus on their next steps.

What is Synchronous Telehealth?

Synchronous telehealth refers to an interactive connection (phone call, video call, etc.) where providers and patients share information in real time.

Many providers offer live virtual visits—this is an example of synchronous telehealth.

Synchronous telehealth enables in-depth interactions between patients and providers, allowing for an efficient way to exchange information. In addition, it offers providers better opportunities to evaluate patients face-to-face, acquiring important information about their conditions and care.

Synchronous telehealth allows for:

  • Real-time behavior observations
  • Live physical therapy sessions
  • Phone calls and video chats
  • Quick primary care and medical specialist consultations
  • Real-time care planning

Related: Improve Patient Outcomes With These Seven Methods

Benefits for Healthcare Providers

While synchronous telehealth provides various benefits for patients (no need to commute, schedule online, less intrusive, etc.), it also has many advantages for healthcare providers, including:

  • Reducing patient no-shows: On-demand healthcare, like synchronous telehealth, helps patients by taking less time away from child care, work, etc. And because they experience fewer disruptions to their daily life, patients are more likely to keep their scheduled virtual appointments.
  • Increasing patient retention: Synchronous telehealth is so convenient for patients—it lets them make their own appointments, have more privacy, and experience shorter wait times. These benefits for patients bring a benefit for providers too: an increase in patient retention and satisfaction, which ultimately increases revenue.
  • Creating new business opportunities: With synchronous telehealth, it’s easier for providers to offer appointment times outside of traditional office hours; this helps meet patients’ needs while extending their billable hours beyond the standard workday. Synchronous telehealth offers a way to reach new patients, better engage existing ones, expand care, and increase revenue.

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Telehealth Compared

The asynchronous telehealth approach is very beneficial to specialty providers that require video or image sharing—dermatology, orthopedics, radiology, ophthalmology, etc. Almost every patient population can benefit from asynchronous communication with their provider.

Synchronous telehealth allows patients and providers to communicate in real time, improving convenience, efficiency, and access. It allows patients to visit specialists virtually that they may not have access to because of financial, transportation, or geographic constraints.

When to Use Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Telehealth

Asynchronous telehealth works best in a supportive capacity. It can efficiently aid the treatment and diagnostics that providers administer during synchronous telehealth visits.

  • Use asynchronous telehealth to help support care: The data from asynchronous telehealth gives patients more autonomy when submitting their information or scheduling visits. Asynchronous options should be available in whatever patient portal you use; it will help optimize the accessibility and flexibility of your synchronous telehealth solutions.
  • Use synchronous telehealth to help provide care: When it comes to more advanced stages of your patients’ journeys, synchronous telehealth begins to shine. Virtual visits can save a significant amount of time when a condition requires more in-depth and frequent care. Implementing synchronous telehealth services structured around your asynchronous services is ideal for establishing an efficient telehealth structure.

Don’t settle for an “either/or” telehealth setup—Learn how to get the benefits of telehealth using asynchronous and synchronous solutions with our platform.

Facing Telehealth Challenges? Clearstep Offers Solutions for Asynchronous and Synchronous Telehealth

At Clearstep, we help patients and providers access asynchronous and synchronous telehealth tools through:

  • Virtual triage: Let your patients triage and schedule their care appointments online—this eliminates long wait times, enhances their overall experience, and allows them to check their symptoms quickly to determine their next steps.
  • Patient services: With our AI chat solutions, you can automate clinical workflows (bill payments, prescription refills, scheduling follow-ups, etc.). In addition, your patients can quickly and easily schedule an appointment without picking up the phone—they can even verify that you are in-network with their insurance company.
  • Clinical journeys: Support your patients’ journeys before, between, and after each appointment. From COVID care to triggering automatic escalation and the next steps post-discharge to supporting better health outcomes in patients with chronic conditions, you can do it all with our platform.

Learn more and schedule your free demo here.

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