When I first started writing this blog post, I was going to title it, "Is it Live, or is it Memorex?"™ But then I realized that if I did, I would be at risk of showing my age. For those of you unfamiliar with this iconic Memorex© tagline, it referred to a comparison between the sound quality of a live band or an audio cassette. For this article, the phrase would refer to the difference between synchronous and asynchronous telemedicine.
Many of you may be familiar with apps similar to Blue Cross Blue Shield's
Virtual Care app. This app is typically re-named for each state or region;
for example, in South Carolina, it is called SC Blue. This app is an
excellent example of synchronous telemedicine. The patient and healthcare
provider are live interacting together over an audio-visual link on the
Asynchronous Telemedicine is less often known and mostly used for specialty care. Asynchronous telemedicine involves acquiring medical data from a patient, then transmitting it to the specialist to review at a time convenient for the doctor. The physician then will assess the medical data, make a diagnosis, and send the results back to the referring physician from a secure email server. For example, a telemedicine healthcare provider orders an x-ray for a patient. The patient then visits an imaging center; the imaging center then sends the x-ray to a telemedicine radiologist. The x-ray arrives in the radiologist's secure email server and is viewed by the radiologist when it is convenient. The radiologist then transmits the diagnosis to the telemedicine healthcare provider for them to discuss with the patient.
Both types of telemedicine offer unique benefits for the patient. Most will know that synchronous telemedicine provides the patient a means to be seen by a healthcare provider without leaving their home or office. Combined with the ability to transmit a prescription for minor ailments directly to a pharmacy for a pickup, it allows the patient a more comfortable user experience than the experience of visiting a physician's office or an urgent care facility.
However, the added layer of asynchronous telemedicine opens the way for expanded care for patients. For patients in rural areas that do not have access to a medical specialist, this new method of healthcare will provide much-needed access. Secondly, asynchronous telemedicine can offer patients a means to overcome language and cultural barriers that could affect the patient experience. Lastly, this new process can lessen wait times for medical data to be evaluated and provide a faster diagnosis for the patient.
For healthcare providers, this technology offers a means where they can gather all of the relevant medical data, analyze it, and provide a more accurate diagnosis. This model of evidence-based care will benefit both the patient and the doctor.
While not suitable for every specialty, specialists such as ophthalmologists, dermatologists, urologists, and radiologists have already seen improvements in patient care.
As patient demographics change, the healthcare industry is seeing young adults seek out new, more convenient ways of seeing a doctor. With the incursion into healthcare by large corporations, healthcare is becoming about the accessibility of services to the consumer. One of the fastest-growing digital apps today is Slack. Slack is a digital platform that allows different people to communicate asynchronously within specific groups. Many companies are switching from traditional email services such as Outlook and Gmail and moving there teams to Slack. This software allows the sharing of documents, real-time group messaging, scheduling, and even voice and video calls.
Amazon, Google, and now Walmart have entered the healthcare industry in recent years. They have plenty of experience in creating happy and loyal consumers. Still, in the end, the relationship made is not with Walmart or Google, but with the person treating the patient, and healthcare professionals should learn some of the consumer experience lessons from these corporations and embrace new technologies.