If telehealth were a genie let out of its bottle at the height of the COVID pandemic, we would have to assess things now and realize that the bottle is gone. It has been smashed on the rocks of convenience. The genie is out, and it is here to stay. So now what? Some say the future of telehealth development lies in asynchronous care.
‘Asynchronous’ is one of those big words that sounds extremely impressive despite the fact that so many people don’t know what it means. Here is how the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines it:
- not simultaneous or concurrent in time; not synchronous
- of, used in, or being digital…communication (as between computers) in which there is no timing requirement for transmission and in which the start of each character is individually signaled by the transmitting device.
In layperson’s terms, asynchronous healthcare is healthcare delivery that is not offered in a linear fashion. It is essentially on-demand delivery.
Delivery When I Need It
In an asynchronous healthcare environment, I receive delivery of services when I need them. Maybe I woke up feeling like I’m coming down with a cold. I have no interest in visiting my GP’s office or attempting to schedule a virtual visit for later in the week. I am pretty sure it’s a cold, and I’m just looking for a licensed doctor to tell me whether my assumptions are right or wrong.
So what do I do? I pull out my phone and bring up a telemedicine app. I sign in, complete a short questionnaire, and wait for a clinician to respond. That response may come by way of a request to chat or a complete diagnosis with a recommendation of what to do next. Easy peasy, right?
The Walk-In Model
Personally, I can think of several ways in which asynchronous healthcare delivery could be deployed on a wide scale. For example, I can imagine a series of walk-in primary care clinics scattered around the town in which I live. The clinics would be retail spaces populated by telehealth kiosks manufactured by telemedecine solutions CSI Health out of San Antonio, TX. The clinics would also be staffed by registered nurses and/or nurse practitioners.
Whenever I wanted a quick visit with a primary care doctor, I would stop in at the clinic. I would sit down at a kiosk equipped with all the common diagnostic tools: thermometer, blood pressure cuff, heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter, and a digital scale. I would tap the screen a few times and connect with a primary care physician in a remote location.
Here’s the thing: almost all primary care visits involve little more than conversation. If a doctor believes tests are in order, they are almost always conducted at a separate facility and at a separate time. So if all we are doing is talking, why not do it remotely?
It Already Works
The healthcare sector is now talking about asynchronous telehealth as though it is something brand new. It’s not. On-demand primary care has been around for a few years. It is a model that already works quite well. Most of us are only hearing of it now because the pandemic pushed it to the forefront of our collective healthcare consciousness.
Whether you call it on-demand or asynchronous, the point is the same. It is made possible through telehealth technologies and creative tech companies that are not afraid to merge healthcare delivery with digital communications.
I hear people saying that the future of telehealth development is asynchronous delivery. I don’t disagree. I can already see the industry moving in that direction.