SMS prescribed to cut missed NHS appointments

Don't b l8 4 yr checkup pls

Don't b l8 4 yr checkup pls

Sending patients text messages to remind them to attend their appointments is already proving a success for pioneering hospital trusts.

Around eight per cent of patients do not turn up when the are supposed to, but outpatients clinics using SMS-based appointment reminder systems have cut non-attendance rates by 30 per cent, even when take-up of the texting service was as low as 20 per cent, according to analyst Wireless Healthcare.

The patients most likely to forget, or not bother, to turn up for appointments fall within the 16-to-35 age group, said Wireless Healthcare senior analyst Peter Kruger.

And simply overbooking the clinic to compensate is not the best way forward, he told “If you overbook for the eight per cent of no-shows you are disrupting the workflow and the treatment regime.”

But by “lucky coincidence” people in this age group are heavy users of mobile phones and text messaging, one reason why SMS-based reminder systems are proving successful, he said.

So far the systems are being used by a handful of trusts but Kruger predicted this is likely to spread as the benefits become apparent. While these reminder systems are not yet fully integrated with patient booking systems, in the longer term they can cut admin costs as well, he added.

Addition services such as patient support and medication reminders are likely to follow, the analyst report predicts.

The report sees evidence that this is already happening in the field of mental healthcare - where 20-30 per cent of appointments are missed – and where clinics and social services are under pressure to ensure that patients keep appointments and comply with medication regimes.

But revenues for suppliers will remain low - the report predicts revenues from SMS patient reminder services are unlikely to exceed £1m a year by 2010.