Asynchronous Text Messaging – Telehealth Features Series

In this Teleahealth Feature Series, we’re going to cover the long list of potential telehealth features available today.  As you’re considering your own approach to telehealth, we will provide you a look at all the possible features telehealth companies are offering on the market.  Plus, we’ll offer our insight into the nuances of each feature so you can select the right telehealth company or companies you use.  Not all telehealth is created equal, so taking the time to understand all the possible features and options is worth the effort.

The next feature we’re going to cover is Asynchronous Text Messaging.

Many people might be wondering why asynchronous text messaging is on this list of telehealth features.  I’ll admit that this is a bit of a tricky feature to explore, but that’s exactly why it needs to be on the list.  It can be an extremely valuable feature as a healthcare organization connects with their patients remotely.

First, do you need asynchronous text messaging to do live video telehealth visits?  No.

Could your live video telehealth visit benefit from the ability to asynchronously text your patient before, during, or after the video telehealth visit?  Absolutely.

Are many doctors afraid of patients being able to text back and forth with them?  Yes.

Should doctors be afraid that patients are going to abuse this feature?  Absolutely Not!  And the other benefits outweigh that small risk.

Looking at this list of questions and answers, it seems like asynchronous text messaging should be an obvious feature that all doctors want.  Well, besides the unfounded fears, asynchronous text messaging has one major flaw to it.  There isn’t great reimbursement for these text messages.

The only partial exception to this is in the remote patient monitoring (RPM) and chronic care management (CCM) space or in value based care arrangements (including direct primary care and concierge).  However, those that have participated in the RPM and CCM space know full well that “great reimbursement” isn’t a feature of those programs.  There is some reimbursement now available, but it’s not great and it is limited to a very specific patient population.  However, we do see RPM and CCM solutions leveraging asynchronous messaging in really interesting, and effective ways.  I think we could also see self insured employers using this functionality in unique ways as well since they are paying for their employees healthcare.

I’ll leave the text messaging reimbursement discussion there for now, but needless to say until the reimbursement for asynchronous text messaging catches up, we’re unlikely to see mass adoption of this option.  It’s kind of sad really since there are a number of cases where 10 text messages over a 3 week period is much better care than one office visit.  However, the later pays better than the former.  See also our past article on how telehealth reimbursement gets complex really quick to better understand why it’s going to take some real work to change the reimbursement system to work for this.

Reimbursement aside, we are seeing many of the telehealth companies providing asynchronous text messaging along with the live video telehealth options.  It will be interesting to see if the explosion of telehealth is going to also open the door to asynchronous text messaging by healthcare organizations and doctors with patients.  Even without trying to provide care over text message, there are a lot of ways that text messaging can help a practice be more operationally efficient.  The simplest example is not having to play phone tag with the patient.  However, there are dozens of other ways that a text message streamlines the communication between a healthcare organization and the patient.  Facilitating the patient visit and ensuring payment for the telehealth visit are two great examples where having a text message option that connects your practice with patients is why asynchronous text messaging is a great feature to be sure is included in your telehealth platform.

Be sure to check out our full list of telehealth features, our deep dive into each telehealth feature, and our list of telehealth companies.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

4 Comments

  • What a coincident. We just launched Epic-integrated Live Chat on Epic App Orchard. I have been mulling over this for nearly two years. How to enable Live Chat so that it is intuitive and respects hospitals’ desire to treat EHR as the single source of truth and does not inconvenience the front desk staff. So instead of launching a standalone application, we used SMART on FHIR.

  • Chinmay,
    By live chat does that mean a real live chat feature or is it an asynchronous text message? I think there’s a subtle but important difference between the two. In fact, the next feature we’re going to highlight is live chat.

    That’s great that you’ve integrated it with Epic as the single source of truth. I think that approach will be attractive for a whole lot of organizations. I know many have gone all in on that philosophy.

  • CirrusMD connects you with a doctor in seconds with a text based interface. It’s a really useful service and much more convenient than video chats, or having to make an in-person appointment for simple things like prescription refills and other common issues.

  • Jordan,
    Does CirrusMD also allow for video chats or is it all text based and no video ever? I definitely think there’s a big space for text based interactions between doctors and patients. In fact, I could argue that it’s necessary if we want to shift the healthcare system from episodic care to managing a patient’s overall wellness. The big problem there is that the reimbursement hasn’t caught up to that notion yet. So, that’s why it’s never taken off. Also, the point of this article was looking at features that go alongside a video telehealth platform, but that’s a separate point.

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