Cooper: The Inboxologist

Cooper Care Alliance pilots new program

Many patients today are accustomed to online patient portals, where they can submit questions to their care team, request medication refills or contact the doctor with an urgent issue. But the popularity of this digital tool has caused an unexpected side effect: overflowing inboxes.. 

Cooper Care Alliance (CCA) has developed a solution that provides patients with a fast response and eases the work on the provider –  a new team member: an inboxologist. 

Tina Lopez, MSN, APN, FNP-C, was recently hired as the CCA’s first inboxologist. She is part of a pilot program at CCA to help quicken response time to patients and alleviate the workload of some of its busiest practitioners. At first glance, an inboxologist might be expected to forward emails to the correct physician or nurse practitioner, which she does. However, with 20 years of experience as an RN and 10 years as a nurse practitioner in hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices, Lopez can also prescribe medications, give advice following an office visit, order and interpret lab work, and much more. 

“If a patient is getting a mammogram, for example, and the radiologist sees an abnormality, they can reach out to me, and I can order additional testing right away,” explains Lopez. “It’s much more convenient for the patient.” 

Or, if a patient was seen in the office for an upper respiratory issue but develops other symptoms, they may message the office with a question and Lopez can order lab work, a chest x-ray, adjust medication levels or direct them to an ER, which is why her advanced degree and experience is a job requirement. 

In other cases, a patient may send Lopez a photo or talk to her via telemedicine. If it’s truly urgent, Lopez will get an alert that the message is time-sensitive. 

“It’s all about addressing the patient’s needs as quickly as I can, so the patient gets great care and knows we care about their health,” Lopez says. 

Modern Services 

Several groups around the country are doing something similar, says Greg Taylor, DO, medical director at CCA. He first learned of the innovative approach last year and implemented it this spring. 

“So much of a physician’s work takes place outside the office visit, and there is not enough time to get it all done,” he says. “Tina has the perfect skill set. She has the experience, credentials and confidence to effectively answer patient requests. That makes it easier for providers to get through their day, so we can offer better, faster services for patients.” 

The practice is already seeing positive effects of the program. Patients appreciate the same-day responses and doctors have told Dr. Taylor they have about 25% fewer messages at the end of the day. “And that makes a big difference,” he says. 

“Our doctors want to respond immediately, but they can’t always do that, and I love being able to let the patient know their issues are important and they matter,” says Lopez. 


Throughout CCA, the staff works as a team. From physicians, nurse practitioners, medical assistants, the front desk staff and scheduling advocates – nurse practitioners who visit patients in their homes when they cannot make it to the office – it’s a well-functioning machine. 

“This teamwork makes such a difference in the care we provide to our patients,” adds Lopez. 

From handling adjustments to medication, to something serious, such as a patient in respiratory distress who needs to be seen immediately, Lopez can handle it all. “As part of the care team, patients have another set of trained eyes watching out for them and responding in very timely ways,” she says. 

“Approximately 90% of the messages are quick and easy, but when it’s something serious, it can’t wait in an inbox,” says Dr. Taylor. “I believe this will be the norm 5 years from now. And both patients and providers will benefit from this new approach.


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