There’s no question that our society is moving toward texting and other convenient modes of communication, but medicine has been conspicuously lagging this trend. Despite evolving and clear patient preferences, many practices are still reachable only by phone, and few medical organizations have truly figured out how to integrate modern messaging into clinical workflows in a successful, sustainable way. It’s not an impossible puzzle to solve, though, and the benefits are worth it.
Meet Jonah Mink, MD, a family practice primary care physician who has been using secure messaging on Spruce to coordinate efficiently with his staff and to care for his large patient panel, at scale and to great effect.
Read on to learn how Dr. Mink has found success with messaging and how he addresses the issues that often stop other practices from doing the same.
About Jonah Mink, MD
Practice: Stoll Medical Group
Practice Location: Philadelphia, PA
Practice Type: Family practice, fee-for-service primary care
Key Team Members on Spruce: 4 (practice administrator, medical assistant, scribe, and Dr. Mink)
Panel Size: 5,000 (not all are consistently active)
How Dr. Mink Uses Messaging—and How He Gets His Patients to Join In
Dr. Mink has managed to get nearly 1,000 of his patients to install the Spruce app and connect with him for secure messaging.
While Spruce supports standard SMS texting, which doesn’t require patients to install anything on their phones, Dr. Mink prefers to use exclusively secure app-to-app messaging on the platform. This increases security, helps with HIPAA compliance, and enables advanced features like telemedicine and file attachments, but it also means that his patients need to download the Spruce app. As with anything that involves extra work, no matter how minimal, this step could easily be a sticking point that keeps patients away from the service.
Nearly 1,000 of Dr. Mink’s patients have installed the Spruce app and connected with him for secure messaging.
So how does Dr. Mink get his patients on board with Spruce and secure messaging? He’s made Spruce part of his in-person workflow, and he introduces patients to it only when they need it.
“With patients, I use Spruce primarily for two things at first,” said Dr. Mink. “I use it to send educational materials related to in-person visits, and also to share lab results after visits. I start the messaging conversation while patients are still in the office, and Spruce sends them a text message to join me.
“I tell everyone that Spruce is my primary method of communication and that they can reach out anytime. They like that, and it motivates them to install the app. A lot of people in our area are young professionals, too, and everybody knows how to text and prefers texts to calls. That’s also helped uptake, I think.”
“I tell everyone that Spruce is my primary method of communication and that they can reach out anytime. They like that, and [many of my patients] prefer texts to calls.”
—Jonah Mink, MD
Dr. Mink related that some patients install the app while they’re still in his office, and he uses the platform to check up on the rest of them later to make sure that they eventually do join. If they don’t, he resends the invitation, which is a simple one-click process on Spruce. In total, Dr. Mink estimates that more than 80% of patients will download the Spruce app when he offers it.
“And I only onboard people when it’s relevant,” Dr. Mink added. “That is, I only do it when I have something to share. People are interested in getting their lab results and in seeing follow-up materials, and they’ll sign up to do those things. Then, once they’re on Spruce, they can use the app to initiate contact with me, too.”
Many physicians fear that patients will reach out excessively if given an open communication channel with their medical team, but Dr. Mink and his staff haven’t found that to be the case with their population, even at scale.
“It actually hasn’t been cumbersome,” said Dr. Mink. “My patients haven’t abused it, and when they do message, it’s usually for things that are easily solvable. It’s been super useful for triage, too, and I think that’s good for patients. I can tell them, ‘I’m going to send in this anti-inflammatory for you, and you don’t have to come in’; they love that. Or if they do need to come in, we can make that decision faster. Part of the point and why people like us and keep coming back is that we’re so accessible.”
And Spruce Messaging for His Staff, Too!
“I also have my scribe, administrator, and medical assistant using Spruce” said Dr. Mink. “They’ve been great and really joined in, and it’s been highly effective for task sharing.”
“We’ve been able to communicate so efficiently [on Spruce] that I don’t have any paper on my desk at all anymore.”
—Jonah Mink, MD
In Dr. Mink’s workflow, when a patient request comes in, he quickly evaluates it and then uses Spruce’s internal note and paging capabilities to bring his staff in to help, as needed. All of this care coordination occurs within each patient’s unique thread, too, so it stays in one coherent place.
Notably, many medical teams on Spruce use a workflow that is the exact opposite of this, with front-office staff serving as the first line for patient communication and then triaging issues to providers only when necessary. The platform is flexible enough to accommodate nearly any practice pattern, however, and Dr. Mink likes to get the first crack at incoming patient messages.
“It’s so much more efficient with me triaging to others rather than the reverse,” said Dr. Mink. “Scheduling patients for appointments has been huge, for example. They text me, and I can triage their issue and pass them to staff right away to schedule. All of this happens on Spruce, too, so it’s really efficient.”
He paused and then added, “We’ve been able to communicate so efficiently, actually, that I don’t have any paper on my desk at all anymore.”
Want to Take Your Patient and Team Communication to the Next Level?
Spruce powers HIPAA-compliant messaging that will delight your patients and staff, while effortlessly making your organizational workflows more efficient. Start with us today and see how simple it can be to have modern, secure communications!