Practice Case Study: Spruce Powers Team Communication and Smart After-Hours Care in Wellness for Life Clinics

Wellness for Life is a healthcare organization with nearly two-dozen locations across Indiana and one very important responsibility: to provide high-quality, cost-efficient primary care for more than 30,000 people in the state. Since many of these patients come from benefits contracts that the group has established with local employers, it must also manage an unavoidably widespread network of on-site and near-site clinics, all with variable schedules, staffing, and care requirements.

When Justin Leigh, Wellness for Life’s COO, needed an answer to this complexity, he turned to Spruce for the platform’s advanced communication abilities. Read on to learn how Justin and Wellness for Life are using Spruce to power their operations, transforming a diverse network that had become an operational liability into a valuable organizational resource that improves care and saves money.

Key Takeaways:

  • Spruce simply and securely connects Wellness for Life’s clinics, allowing the organization’s many providers to coordinate care, consult on tough cases, and prevent unnecessary ER visits
  • Wellness for Life uses Spruce telephony features to power seamless after-hours care with high availability for patients and low burden for providers
  • Using Spruce for after-hours care enables call triaging, improves documentation and continuity of care, and protects provider time and privacy
  • Spruce’s advanced medical workflows allow Wellness for Life to pitch competitive benefits offerings to employers, helping them win important contracts and continue to grow

Practice Basics

Founded: 2008
Specialty: Family medicine and acute care
Locations: 23 on-site, near-site, and direct primary care clinics
Employer Contracts: 89 small employers, 71 medium- to enterprise-size employers
Covered Lives: 31,000

Solution #1: Improved Team Communication

“Wellness for Life clinics are primarily in rural areas, and we also have one entirely mobile clinic,” related Justin, “So we were really looking for something to connect our whole provider group and allow them to communicate with each other. We’ve been using Spruce for that for about a year now, and it keeps getting better and better.”

“Spruce allows our providers to share cases for second opinions or specialist advice. That has definitely helped avoid unnecessary ER visits.”
—Justin Leigh, COO

With Wellness for Life providers and staff members now connected via Spruce’s secure team messaging, the group is able to coordinate complex medical and administrative issues in an environment that is both simple to use and HIPAA-compliant.

“Our newer providers, especially, are getting a large amount of value from Spruce, because it allows them to share cases with the entire group for second opinions or specialist advice,” said Justin. “That has definitely helped avoid unnecessary ER visits, since they have that access so quickly. Three or four providers just recently chimed in to help a new hire avoid an ER visit, actually, and it seems to be happening more frequently.”

Wellness for Life has used Spruce’s secure team communication to turn an operations challenge into an internal network for expert consultations, and the effort has been so organically successful that the group is planning to expand on it.

“We’re going to start using Spruce for virtual referrals to specialists,” said Justin. “It’s often a two- or three-hour drive for a consult where we are, but now we can do some of them via Spruce. Even if we can’t do the whole thing, we can at least get it started. We have a gastroenterologist we’re starting that with now, and we’re all excited for it.”

Solution #2: Smart After-Hours Care

Wellness for Life has also used Spruce to completely redo how the group handles after-hours care for its large patient base, again turning a growing problem into an operational strength.

“Spruce lets us provide all of our patients with access to care no matter where they are or when. Even if it’s just their local clinic being closed one day, they can still get in touch with us via Spruce and get care.”
—Justin Leigh, COO

“Before Spruce, we just had a call-in line that literally forwarded to an on-call provider’s cell phone,” said Justin. “It was challenging because it went to personal cell numbers, and providers didn’t want to give those out. Providers were also getting bogged down by an increasing volume of non-medical calls that we couldn’t triage, and there was no coordinated way to really track what was happening with after-hours care decisions.”

To address these issues, Wellness for Life transitioned its phone system to Spruce and designed a workflow that takes advantage of the platform’s advanced telephony features, including multiple team phone lines, shared inboxes, secure voicemail transcription, and native mobile apps.

In the new setup, all after-hours patient calls go to secure voicemail on Spruce, where they are automatically transcribed into the permanent patient record. The system then alerts a non-provider Wellness for Life team member, who checks the message content and handles any administrative requests (e.g., appointment booking). If a patient’s issue instead requires medical decision-making, the team member uses Spruce to securely message the group’s on-call provider, who can look into the request and call the patient back.

Justin has noted many benefits under this new system, including:

  • No more exposed personal phone numbers
    Patients call shared Wellness for Life numbers, and Spruce handles everything behind the scenes. When providers make outbound calls from the Spruce phone app, their personal numbers are disguised, too. It’s seamless on both ends, and everybody’s privacy is protected.
  • Ability to triage calls
    “Spruce lets us triage incoming calls and keeps the on-call provider from being exposed to a high volume,” said Justin. “That fixed the biggest complaint that our team had with the old system.”
  • More efficient calls
    “Our on-call providers are covering patients from all of our clinics,” said Justin. “Now they can see the exact details in a patient’s message before calling back, which gives them the ability to look up the chart and be fully ready before responding. That has made the calls smoother and faster.”
  • Improved documentation and continuity of care
    “Our providers love that everything has a record on Spruce,” said Justin. With Spruce, all of Wellness for Life’s after-hours care now has automatic documentation, which lets everybody see what happened overnight when they log on in the morning. This ensures that every patient’s primary providers stay fully up to date and that continuity of care is preserved.

“Spruce now lets us provide all of our patients with access to care no matter where they are or when,” said Justin. “Even if it’s just their local clinic being closed one day, they can still get in touch with us via Spruce and get care.”

But do patients like it?

The new after-hours system has been great for the Wellness for Life care team, but what about their 30,000+ patients? Many healthcare organizations are wary of having patient calls go to voicemail, regardless of how much better it may be for operations.

“That was my biggest concern,” said Justin. “I was definitely worried about patient complaints, but we’ve actually received zero complaints about having to leave voicemail.”

“We’re big on patient outreach and communication,” he continued, “and we make sure that people understand how the system works, why you have to leave voicemail, and why it helps. We always call back quickly, and I think patients are grateful to have access to this round-the-clock service; it certainly beats sitting in an ER or urgent care waiting room for two hours.”

“Not a single complaint,” he added. “Everyone’s been totally fine with it.”

Spruce Helps Wellness for Life Win Employer Contracts

Apart from improving operations, the advancements in team communication and after-hours care that Wellness for Life has realized with Spruce have also turned out to be pivotal in the organization’s sales efforts.

“With Wellness for Life and Spruce, patients and employers are paying nothing extra, but they’re getting a better level of service. We love to tell that story.”
—Justin Leigh, COO

“When we go out and talk to potential clients, Spruce is a hot item for us,” said Justin. “We really like showing benefits brokers and employers how we’re improving care at every provider because of our entire network, all connected instantly via Spruce.”

“The after-hours and virtual care that we provide 24/7 with Spruce also lets us compare our service to other offerings that cost a lot of money, only do after-hours coverage, and have notoriously low utilization.”

“Companies all want something that their employees will actually use when they have an issue outside of typical business hours. Now we can tell them that they’ll get a better service with us than they would with any of the after-hours-only telemedicine companies, since we have all of the same coverage but we also know the patients and can keep the continuity of care intact. With us, after-hours care won’t mean random providers and disconnected records. It really has been a compelling sales pitch, a ton of value.”

“With Wellness for Life and Spruce, patients and employers are paying nothing extra, but they’re getting a better level of service. We love to tell that story.”

Get Spruce for Your Practice

Wellness for Life uses Spruce to power simple and secure team communication and advanced after-hours workflows, delivering care that delights patients and employers and saves money. Book time with our experts today to learn how your practice can do the same thing.

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