Maximize telehealth investments: How asynchronous care solutions can support patients and operational efficiency

Asynchronous virtual care solutions — such as text messaging solutions and chatbots powered by artificial intelligence — can help support clinicians, address staff shortages and streamline the delivery of convenient, quality healthcare.

During a webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review in September, John League, managing director of the Digital Health Research Advisory Board, and Brett Oliver, MD, chief medical information officer at Louisville, Ky.-based Baptist Health, discussed how asynchronous care solutions can support current goals, meet patients where they are and yield significant benefits.

Four insights from the webinar were: 

  1. Asynchronous care solutions should be used to support existing goals. "Focus on where asynchronous modalities can support the goals that your organization is already working on," Mr. League said. For example, many healthcare organizations are already focused on patient satisfaction and on the serious challenges of staff shortages and clinician administrative burden. "We can't be satisfied with current solutions and the marginal improvement we've seen," he added. "I think the time has come for us to look for other solutions, and asynchronous care can be tremendously valuable in addressing these issues."
  2. An asynchronous care solution is not automated healthcare. Via text message, for example, the patient communicates symptoms and answers questions, which are then looked at from an evidence-based perspective. The provider reviews the information, asks follow-up questions and refers the patient to the appropriate level of care, which may be a prescription, video visit or in-person appointment. "There's still a person who decides what needs to happen," Dr. Oliver said. "It just takes some of the busy work out of creating the notes."
  3. Patients are ready for asynchronous care solutions. According to Dr. Oliver, patient expectations have changed as a result of the pandemic. "The floor for what we offer from a digital perspective has been raised significantly," he said. He recalled receiving a fax that one of his patients went to a third-party online provider for a minor health problem. Baptist Health offers 10 hours of weekday access, an urgent care open until 11 p.m. and an on-call nurse answering service. "I thought to myself, 'She never called the office; she didn't ask for anything; she went online for this,'" he said. "It really shook me up. I felt like I had all the access in the world for her, and yet she still chose to go online."
  4. Asynchronous care solutions benefit patients and providers. According to Mr. League, asynchronous care increased the utilization of virtual visits during COVID-19 by 53 percent and reduced patient wait times. Providers spend an average of three minutes delivering care through, and 90 percent of the patients who receive asynchronous care would use it again. 

At Baptist Health, Dr. Oliver reported that (when using asynchronous solutions) patient satisfaction scores were above 95 percent and average response times were less than 10 minutes. "We've got this structured group of nurse practitioners," Dr. Oliver said. "If they're not on a video visit, they're answering those asynchronous care requests. Imagine that it's nine o'clock at night, and you're sick. Instead of waiting until morning to call your doctor, you could get something done in just 15 minutes."

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