Digitization of the medical practice: Success factor asynchronous patient communication

Data, facts and instruments on the German health system

What it’s all about

The transformation of work in medical practices is predominantly associated with tools and software solutions. However, efficiency and productivity only emerge when these are combined with adapted processes. One example is asynchronous patient communication.

The feedback comes later

The term „asynchronous communication“ stands for a type of information exchange in which the sender and receiver do not interact in real time. Unlike synchronous communication, where partners must be available at the same time, asynchronous communication allows content to be sent and received at different times. The main difference is primarily that with asynchronicity, immediate feedback is not expected or necessary as it is with telephone calls, for example. Sender and receiver can be available at different times.

Example practice app

An example of asynchronous communication is requests exchanged via a practice app. Of course, it is still important for the practice staff to provide patients with an answer as soon as possible. But the timing can be defined more freely and, above all, it is possible to process such information requests in a bundled manner.

Work analyses show that the processing time in the context of such time blocking is half as short as when employees repeatedly deal with the requests in between.

The reasons for this are the focus and concentration as well as the absence of interruptions. But the quality of the answers also increases, because additional information can be obtained easily and without pressure. The example also makes it clear that the practice app option only translates into benefits for the practice if the processes (keyword: time blocking) are adapted.

More examples

Another example is online appointment scheduling. Patients can make practice appointments 24/7 and even without any personal feedback from the staff, as the confirmation is done by the system. This frees up working time that can be used for other activities. However, this also only works if the processes in the practice are set up in such a way that the patients booked online are also treated on time. Otherwise, acceptance drops. However, many practice teams only introduce the booking system and leave all existing routines unchanged.

Another variant is the online processing of medical history and documentation forms by patients prior to the practice visit. There is no need to fill out the forms in the practice, which is often perceived as a nuisance; the documents are already available at the time of the patient visits.

Asynchronous is advantageous

In principle, there are a number of technical options today for handling administrative processes asynchronously that previously required direct synchronous interaction between medical assistants and doctors on the one hand and patients on the other. The advantages are manifold:

  • Medical assistants, but also physicians, work more undisturbed and concentrated, they can also deal with content and questions more intensively,
  • the elimination of a large proportion of telephone calls reduces the daily work pressure, hecticness and stress are minimized,
  • processes can be better prioritized and systematized,
  • the quality of documentation and responses increases,
  • the organization as a whole becomes more flexible, as processing times can be freely planned,
  • a massive amount of time is saved
  • the staff can pay more attention to the visitors to the practice,
  • the quality of the relationship between doctor and patient is improved, because questions can be asked in more detail or symptoms can be described more precisely, which in turn helps doctors to make more accurate diagnoses and give more individualized treatment recommendations.

No benefits without best practice practice management.

The foundation for using any digital tool is a smoothly functioning practice system. If this is not guaranteed, such solutions will not deliver their original or secondary benefits in terms of efficiency and productivity gains. Therefore, it is essential to align practice management with best practice standards before introducing transformative technologies in order to create a suitable starting point. The tool for this is the Practice Management Comparison©.