Types of telehealth services span a spectrum of technologies and strategies, including live, forwarded, remote, and mobile, applied depending on convenience and practical considerations.
Recent technological advances, coupled with accelerated patient acclimation to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, have driven some elements of these options into the mainstream quicker than predicted. Savvy providers and practice owners are keeping abreast of what’s possible and feasible to offer patients in the world of telehealth.
Differing types of telehealth technology allow providers to audibly and visually conduct healthcare without physical meetings. This comes in the form of videoconferencing, remote monitoring, and mobile consultation, using any of the wide array of desktop and wireless communications devices available to the average American.
Benefits of Telehealth for Your Patients
Patients benefit from types of telehealth services in numerous ways, some of them counterintuitive.
Aside from the fact it’s safer during a pandemic outbreak to avoid sharing a waiting room with potentially sick people, telehealth services are also more convenient, more efficient, and ease the transportation burden on patients. Patients get access to more doctors, and doctors can see more patients, since neither are limited geographically.
Some providers report that telehealth services enhance the treatment they provide by forcing more attention on their conversations with patients that may provide details doctors may not have been otherwise privy to. Providers can observe the home environment for living conditions that may contribute to health problems. For example, the presence of house plants or dusty curtains may affect respiratory ailments. From there, providers can give patients additional direction toward the care plan.
Synchronous (Live) Telehealth
Synchronous (or live) telehealth is the most commonly noted among the types of telehealth, providing real-time, direct provider-to-patient care. Patients and providers interact directly via voice or video, using various devices, be it phone, laptop or desktop computer.
During such meetings, technology used during the appointment can be employed to provide information about the patient’s condition. Such devices are called remote patient monitoring (RPM) telehealth. More on that below.
Examples of Synchronous Telehealth
Synchronous telehealth examples may include:
- Live video calls
- Phone calls
- Remote monitoring of vitals: blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, etc.
- Consult between primary care provider and specialist over the internet
Asynchronous (Store and Forward) Telehealth
Asynchronous, or “store and forward” telehealth, allows patients and providers to talk and share health information when it is most convenient for them. Instead of real-time conversations happening in the moment, asynchronous telehealth allows patient and provider to review each part of the interaction on their own time through a technology interface.
Likewise, a patient can collect the necessary documentation, and/or health monitor information, then send that with a detailed account of their symptoms and observations in a form that can be reviewed carefully and multiple times – something an in-person meeting does not provide.
Examples of Asynchronous Telehealth
Types of asynchronous telehealth may include:
- Text messaging
- Physical therapy exercise shared via video
- Symptom survey questionnaires
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) Telehealth
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) telehealth, (as described earlier) uses technology to collect health information for later use, as in an exam, whether that involves one of the synchronous or asynchronous types of telehealth platforms.
Monitoring aspects of a patient’s health from their home or throughout their day has become a popular telehealth option for providers and patients. The practice allows more convenient, more complete data, and often more accurate, management of acute and chronic conditions.
Vitals taken in-person during an office visit are not necessarily accurate. “It’s called white coat hypertension because people who measure blood pressure sometimes wear white coats,” the Mayo Clinic reports. The condition can also work in the opposite way, where a person’s blood pressure appears normal in the provider’s office but elevated in other settings. That’s called masked hypertension.
So, monitoring someone remotely may not only debunk an erroneous diagnosis, but it can also help diagnose problems that might otherwise go unnoticed due to incomplete or misleading data.
Examples of Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring may be used to keep track of patients dealing with conditions affecting them long-term including high blood pressure, weight loss or gain, heart conditions, pulmonary disease, sleep apnea and asthma. Examples of devices monitoring such conditions include:
- Blood pressure monitors
- Blood glucose meters
- Apnea monitors
- Heart monitors
- Monitors for dementia and Parkinson’s disease
- Breathing apparatuses
- Fetal monitors
Remote patient monitoring does require that the patient be apprised of the reason for the monitor and is instructed on how to use it properly, so the information is recorded accurately. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provides the following telehealth tips on getting your patients up to speed on the technology:
Explain Why You Are Prescribing At-Home Health Monitors
- A telehealth appointment before they begin using the device.
- A follow-up telehealth appointment after they have been using the device for several days.
- An email or downloadable PDF explaining remote patient monitoring for their condition or symptoms.
Help Your Patient Understand How to Use the Device
- Walk your patient through operating the device during a telehealth appointment.
- Refer your patient to an at-home medical equipment provider in their area who can set them up with the device and provide support.
- Tell your patient what types of readings you will get from their device and how you will receive that information.
- Make sure your patient has written instructions they can refer to, including paper copies, email, or downloadable PDF.
- Encourage your patient to write down their questions and either call your office, send you the questions through a patient portal, or request a follow-up telehealth appointment.
- Have a member of your staff confirm with your patient when you are receiving their information correctly from the device.
Mobile Telehealth (mHealth)
Mobile telehealth uses mobile devices to facilitate mobile health services. Both synchronous and asynchronous telehealth can be handled using a mobile device.
While mHealth can monitor, record, and deliver health information, the technology does not necessarily connect you to a provider or medical professional. But using the devices with the input and guidance of a healthcare provider can help people improve their health and lead to better health outcomes.
One of the most ubiquitous applications of mobile telehealth is the fitness tracker, which can monitor heart rate, calculate calories burned, monitor exertion, and track distance walked and run, as well as pace. This commercially popular device makes it easy to benchmark various measures of your fitness throughout your workouts, causal exercise, or usual activities. With that information in hand, you can better plan your fitness routines by adjusting the amount of exercise you get in a day, or throughout a week.
Examples of Mobile Telehealth
mHealth devices run the gamut of personal electronics:
- Mobile/smart phones
- Smart watches
- Fitness trackers
Medical Advantage Can Help
Medical Advantage’s expert telehealth consultants have experience launching and fine-tuning telehealth programs that engage patients and simplify virtual visits. Contact one of our consultants today to learn how our training and consulting services can help you increase your medical practice revenue, grow your practice, and keep your organization viable as telehealth continues to change healthcare landscape.