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Asynchronous overview

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Here’s a scenario for a typical provider visit. In most cases, you and your provider engage in a conversation. You share a concern or complaint, the provider asks a series of questions, and you decide on a course of treatment. For well-understood and easily-diagnosed health conditions, the questions a provider asks will be similar from one patient to the next. This isn’t always easy though. Sometimes you forget something important about your medical history or the name of some medication you’re taking. It can be challenging to get everything out in an 8-12 minute visit, and face it—some topics can be embarrassing or difficult to raise.  

Very simply, asynchronous telemedicine uses technology to facilitate a conversation by anticipating the questions that are clinically relevant while giving the patient the best medium to communicate relevant clinical information and context.  However, both parties engage in this conversation independently, on their own time.  

Not only is asynchronous communication more convenient, but it can also enable a better clinical experience for patients. This is possible because the platform allows the interaction to be designed to maximize the experience for both the patient and healthcare professional. By allowing the patient to move at their own pace at the time and place of their choosing, the visit can be improved in several ways: the patient can be presented with a more comprehensive set of medical questions to get a full picture of their medical condition, and they can use as much time as they need to communicate their concerns. A healthcare professional is able to review the entirety of this information and capture a full picture to help provide a personalized assessment and plan. All this results in a process that’s more effective and more efficient as well. 

ONC defines asynchronous telemedicine as “store-and-forward video-conferencing,” which is the “transmission of recorded health history to a health practitioner, usually a specialist.” 

VA states, “Asynchronous telemedicine involves acquiring medical data, then transmitting this data to a doctor or medical specialist at a convenient time for assessment offline.” 

ATA defines asynchronous telemedicine as follows: “Term describing store-and-forward transmission of medical images and/or data because the data transfer takes place over a period of time, and typically in separate time frames. The transmission typically does not take place simultaneously.” 

UM states, “In store-and-forward telehealth, data are captured locally, then temporarily stored for transfer at a later time, either via a secure web server, encrypted e-mail, specially-designed store-and-forward software, or electronic health record. The consulting provider then reviews the stored data and makes diagnosis, treatment, and planning recommendations that are electronically transferred or faxed back to the referring provider.”vii