In this segment of our Practice Profile series, we’re highlighting Dr. Elias Kass, a pediatrician in Seattle, Washington. We spoke with Dr. Kass about how he uses Spruce to communicate closely with his patients. We also learned about an innovative flu party that his practice hosted for patients and their families. We’re thrilled that Dr. Kass could use Spruce to facilitate access to better, faster care!
Thanks for speaking with us today, Dr. Kass! To start, could you tell us a bit about your practice?
Sure! We are a pediatrics practice, which is really fun. The babies are fun, the kids are fun. But I especially like being able to be the doctor and practice that I want to have for myself as a parent for my kids. We all strive for easy access to our doctors and other care providers so that we can have our questions answered and get care quickly and easily.
Before you had Spruce in your practice, were there challenges to accessing your patients?
Before Spruce, we used messaging on our EMR, but it could only be done through the patient portal, so we could only message with existing patients. It was challenging for people to log in because it was something like a 15-step process. Plus, it wasn’t the most user-friendly on our side. I found that I wasn’t looking at messages over the weekend or when I was away from my computer. I would come in on Monday and see the messages that weren’t urgent enough to page me, but I would have appreciated knowing about them earlier so that I could reply. We also couldn’t attach images, so I would have to instruct parents how to post photos elsewhere and send me links. Patients also couldn’t send other attachments like school forms, and we were using yet another third party for video visits.
We were looking for a new tool to build a phone tree and paging service when we found Spruce. Spruce offered these features, plus messaging, attachments, and video visits. It was a no-brainer.
What’s one thing you do with Spruce that would be difficult otherwise?
We use Spruce a ton for health campaigns, like for the flu vaccine. We first tag our patients based on whether they’re primary care patients or “feeding” patients. About half of my patients receive episodic care for newborn feeding issues, so we’ll see them two or three times, and we don’t need to tell them that we’re offering flu vaccines. Then, we’re able to bulk message everyone in primary care to alert them that we have the flu vaccine in stock, how to schedule an appointment, whether they need one or two doses, etc.
We heard you hosted a very successful “flu party.” Can you tell us about it?
The flu party was born out of friends frustrated they couldn’t find a place where they and their kids could get their flu shots at the same time, especially outside of school and work hours. Many pharmacies don’t immunize kids, the pediatric practices don’t immunize adults, and with sometimes different insurance plans, families were going 3+ places trying to get flu vaccines. Every step is inefficient.
So I thought about it and realized, we have vaccines, we’re able to serve private insurance and Medicaid patients, and we’re able to offer adult vaccines. It seemed pretty easy. We thought it’d be nice if it was a festive thing, so we decided to throw a party (with snacks)!
We did all of the registration in advance, and everyone’s insurance was entered into the system. I made a new 5-minute visit type in our EHR, then made a “special event” appointment group in our scheduling platform, along with the “flu party” appointment type. That allowed me to be able to distribute a link to the visit type directly.
We also used Spruce to send out messages to everyone registered for the flu party, explaining the necessity of doing the digital check-in, as well as all the logistical details. We used the saved messages and tagging features to make that happen.
As the event approached, if the check-in wasn’t completed, we sent out additional Spruce messages and invited people to send back photos of the insurance card if they weren’t able to do it through our check-in software. We managed to get every single person’s registration — and their insurance — ready before their arrival. The vast majority of attendees were new to the practice, so getting everyone registered beforehand was crucial.
Leading up to the event, we got messages like, “I’m just coming down with a cold, is it okay for me to still get my flu shot?’ Messaging through Spruce allowed us to quickly reply back that, yes, it was okay! We had zero no-shows because of this no-friction communication.
It was totally a success. People just showed up, hung out for a few minutes, got vaccinated, and left. We had fifty people in an hour and a half. Next year we’ll do multiple flu parties. We didn’t even advertise this event, so you can tell the demand is definitely there. Nobody wants to pull their kid out of school to get a flu shot. Nobody wants to sit in the waiting room for an hour. This was a great solution.
Besides the flu party, has Spruce impacted your practice on a broader level?
We wouldn’t be able to do what we’ve done in our practice without Spruce. There are so many benefits, like the autoresponders and other efficiency tools. The amount of grunt work that gets done in an automated way is phenomenal.
People also love being able to text. They say, “I can text everybody, why can’t I text my doctor?” — Oh wait, you can! And it’s the same phone number as the office. They absolutely love it.
And there’s another level of clinical care that we can provide through texting. Since people can text in the middle of the night, I was able to answer a parent’s question about vaccination at a time when I couldn’t before. We had been talking for five years about this stuff, and she was now able to be more vulnerable and ask questions via Spruce that she hadn’t felt comfortable asking before. And I was able to answer them all through Spruce. It felt like it was lower stakes. We weren’t writing big, formal messages; she was just sharing her thoughts.
I think that having people be able to communicate with their doctor in the same way they communicate with everybody else is really helpful. It makes us more accessible and more human. Spruce is so fundamental to our practice running smoothly that it’s almost hard to articulate. Thank you for such a great platform!
Thank you, Dr. Kass!
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