Text messaging beats missed appointments

UK - Patients who miss medical appointments cost the country's National Health Service (NHS) around £575 million annually.

Patients receive automatic reminders
Patients receive automatic reminders

To address this problem, in 2003 the Government’s Department of Trade and Industry awarded a SMART Feasibility Grant to the firm iPLATO Ltd, which specialises in mobile healthcare applications. The aim was to study the feasibility of using a text messaging system to remind outpatients about their appointments. Consequently the firm produced the service Patient Care Messaging, which can be fully integrated with a Patient Administration System, EMIS, InPractice Systems, Sepia and Psymon. 

The service is reported to have reduced missed appointments by up to 40%, offering a potential annual saving of over £500,000 for an average Primary Care Trust. 

15 NHS Trusts, including GP surgeries and hospitals across London, now use the system. Along with setting up automatic text reminders of appointments, text campaigns also can be designed by healthcare staff to encourage patients to attend clinics for flu jabs or other vaccinations, and participate in health programmes, e.g. screening, smoking cessation, etc. Patients are said to respond well to the text messaging system, in which their text replies are converted into e-mails that are automatically directed to the relevant doctor or nurse. 

The firm reports that it has now been contacted by healthcare organisations in over a dozen countries, leading it to predict global potential for this technology. Based in London, and with a technical development centre in the Czech Republic and offices in the US and Saudi Arabia, iPLATO Ltd will launch the service in Germany shortly.


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