Man using a laptop computer to look up what synchronous vs. asynchronous telehealth

Synchronous vs. asynchronous telehealth: key points to know

Medically reviewed on February 24, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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In recent years, telehealth has risen in popularity, with 37% of American adults taking advantage of digital medical services in 2021 alone.1 Increased demand and evolving technology have led telehealth providers to expand their range of healthcare services to include everything from consultations to medications.

Two styles of service define most telehealth solutions—synchronous and asynchronous. Like medication and massage therapy, they can be part of the same treatment plan yet serve different functions.

So, what’s the difference between these two telehealth solutions, and how can patients use them to facilitate easier treatment? Read on as we look into synchronous vs. asynchronous telehealth and explore what types of services are included under each umbrella.

What’s the difference between synchronous and asynchronous telehealth?

While both types of telehealth encompass a variety of healthcare services, the terms synchronous and asynchronous refer to the timeframe in which a patient receives telehealth services [2]:

  • Synchronous – Synchronous telehealth solutions happen in real-time. They generally consist of a live session with a healthcare provider. During the session, the patient provides information, gets advice, and receives treatment immediately without having to wait extended periods for healthcare professionals to review their condition.
  • Asynchronous – Asynchronous telehealth services have a delay between the patient’s input and the subsequent guidance. Generally, they involve the patient submitting information and waiting for their healthcare provider to review it and make a recommendation.

Experiencing different delivery times for various healthcare services is nothing new. Think of your last in-person visit to a healthcare facility: After waiting for an hour past your scheduled appointment time and reading every magazine in the waiting room, your healthcare provider does a check-up and gives immediate advice. This could be considered synchronous healthcare, though not every provider runs this late.

Alternatively, imagine getting bloodwork done. You submit a sample one day and receive the results another (hopefully not several weeks later). The timeline for this type of test closely resembles how asynchronous telehealth services function.

Essentially, telehealth solutions don’t operate all that differently from the medical services you already know. In fact, the types of services considered synchronous and asynchronous telemedicine bear a striking resemblance to traditional healthcare.

Which types of telehealth services are considered synchronous and asynchronous?

While telehealth has changed the way many patients manage their healthcare, the solutions themselves aren’t entirely different. Even if the way patients receive services looks different, telehealth and traditional healthcare serve many of the same functions. To help you learn how to prepare for a telehealth appointment, let’s learn what kind of services are under each type.

Synchronous telehealth solutions

Take traditionally instant services, like consultations with a healthcare provider, as an example. These familiar situations have viable synchronous solutions, such as:

  • Virtual Care Visits (VCVs) – VCVs are like traditional consultations, except they’re done digitally. During a VCV, a patient will meet with a healthcare provider online, generally over video-conferencing software. These types of meetings can be done anywhere and are usually used for routine check-ups or treatment of less serious issues [3].
  • Facilitated Care Visits (FCVs) – Unlike VCVs, FCVs usually aren’t done in the comfort of your own home. They generally occur at clinics where diagnostic equipment is available. During an FCV, patients conference with one healthcare professional while another (called a telefacilitator) runs tests, gathers data, and submits the information to the observing provider [2].

Asynchronous telehealth solutions

Likewise, services that generally take a bit more time—such as connecting with specialists—have their own asynchronous counterparts. Asynchronous telehealth covers a broad range of services, but they all rely on the store-and-forward system, which functions like so [4]:

  1. A patient or healthcare professional gathers information about a condition, such as taking a picture of inflamed gums.
  2. The information is uploaded to a database accessible to the patient’s healthcare provider.
  3. The healthcare provider later reviews the data and makes an assessment.
  4. The patient receives a treatment plan or further instructions on how to deal with their condition.

Because of asynchronous telehealth’s wide range of possibilities, healthcare professionals can use it to manage a myriad of conditions, including:

  • Dermatological issues
  • Common sicknesses, such as COVID-19
  • Chronic ailments, such as ongoing ocular, cardiological, or gastrointestinal problems
  • Post-surgery recovery
  • Weight loss and health-improvement plans

How do synchronous and asynchronous services fit into healthcare plans?

Generally, telehealth patients will take advantage of both synchronous and asynchronous solutions to manage their wellness. For instance, a telehealth service provider may recommend a plan that looks like this:

  1. A patient has a VCV (synchronous service) with a healthcare provider who will assess and attempt to diagnose a condition.
  2. The patient will track and share information with their healthcare provider via a digital platform (asynchronous service).
  3. The healthcare provider will monitor the patient’s ongoing condition, make recommendations, and prescribe medication if necessary.
  4. The patient and provider may meet for more VCVs in the future as the situation progresses.

Plans like these can help medical professionals provide healthcare solutions more easily. They also make it possible for patients to access services as they need them.

How can I access reliable telehealth services?

At Everywell, we’re committed to providing patients with access to easily navigable, high-quality digital health services, including access to discreet telemedicine online.

We facilitate a range of synchronous solutions for patients who need live support—such as virtual care visits (VCVs) with licensed healthcare professionals who can assess and diagnose conditions. Then, after your healthcare provider works out a care delivery plan, our easy-to-use digital portal makes sharing information with providers and receiving guidance a breeze.

If telehealth services sound right for your situation, Everywell is here to help. Reach out to us today for more information.

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  1. Products - data briefs - number 445 - October 2022. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published October 12, 2022. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  2. Mechanic OJ, Persaud Y, Kimball AB. Telehealth Systems. URL. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls. Published January 2022. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  3. McGrail KM, Ahuja MA, Leaver CA. Virtual Visits and Patient-Centered Care: Results of a Patient Survey and Observational Study. J Med Internet Res. 2017;19(5):e177.
  4. Asynchronous direct-to-consumer telehealth. URL. Published October 22, 2022. Accessed February 8, 2023.
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