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 Real Time Text Chat.
I imagine regular readers of the site and those following our look at various telehealth features might be wondering how asynchronous text messaging is all that different from a real time text chat. Well, when you look at how people use asynchronous text messaging, it often feels very similar to a real time text chat. The stats prove it out that people respond to text messages really quickly. So much so that it almost feels like a real time text chat. And let’s be honest, the way many of us are glued to our phones, it really is a real time text chat. However, there are some subtle differences when it comes to telehealth.
The most obvious piece is the words asynchronous vs real time. When sending a text message to a patient, there’s not expectation that the patient is watching the chat live and that they’ll respond in real time to that message. The expectation is that they’ll see it and respond (if necessary) at their convenience. This works for a lot of areas of healthcare including things like reminders. However, there’s still a place for a real time text chat in telehealth as well.
If you’ve done Zoom or Google Meet or one of the other popular video chat tools, you’ve probably seen the value of having a text message chat alongside the video. I know in virtual meetings, I’ll often copy and paste a link or some other text into the chat area for those on the video call to be able to view the link or other information I wanted to send them.
The same is true for doctors seeing patients. Maybe the doctor wants to send a link to some patient information. Sharing that in real time so the patient can view the link while they have a conversation can be really valuable. Sure, some telehealth platforms allow the doctor to share their screen which would also allow the doctor to view a link with the patient in real time, but the quality often falls apart with screen sharing versus the patient viewing the link natively on their device.
In other cases, the patient may want to share something with the doctor. For example, if the doctor is having a hard time understanding the patient as they describe the medications they’re on, the doctor can ask for the patient to type that info in the real time text chat so they make sure they’re hearing the patient correctly.
Another benefit to a real time chat is when it allows for a patient or doctor to be able to share images in real time as well. We previously talked about the value of a patient sharing a high quality picture of their wound or rash with their doctor as opposed to the generally lower quality video. This can often be facilitated by a real time chat that allows for attachments.
One other thing that’s interesting about real time chat is that it’s generally not part of the official documentation. It’s usually treated similar to a conversation the doctor has with the patient in the exam room. It’s not recorded and added to the documentation. However, most asynchronous text messages are stored for future use.
While I wouldn’t say that real time text chat is an essential component of a telehealth solution, it certainly is a nice to have feature in your telehealth platform. Sometimes it can make the interface a challenge, especially if you’re on a mobile device. However, many of the consumer video apps have shown the way on how to make this usable.