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.