Texts cut missed meetings

TEXT reminders have cut missed hospital appointments by more than a tenth and saved £135,000 in five months.

Since introducing the service in November, Kettering General Hospital has seen an average of 212 fewer missed outpatient appointments per month, saving staff time and rearrangement costs.

Jon Green, the hospital’s deputy chief operating officer, said: “The reduction in missed appointments is encouraging news and we hope this trend continues for the rest of the year.

“When we first launched the texting service we had encouraged some 6,000 of our patients to take part and were sending out 50 to 75 reminders per day.

“Now we have more than tripled that to 22,055 patients signed up to the service and some 275 text reminders being sent out each day.”

In total 8,502 outpatient appointments were missed at the hospital between November and March, down from 9,563 a year earlier.

If the trend continues the trust could have 2,500 fewer missed appointments per year, saving about £320,000.

The text reminders are sent to patients seven days in advance of their appointment.

The messages are a simple reminder of the appointment, showing the venue, date and time, together with a number to call if the patient is now unable to keep the appointment.

The message will not include details of the clinic itself to ensure there is patient confidentiality.

Text message reminders are in addition to the normal written reminder that is sent out three weeks before the appointment date to all patients who booked their appointment more than 10 weeks in advance.

Staff time went into the set up of the service but it uses an NHS website so there is no cost to sending the text messages.

Mr Green said: “The feedback we have had so far from patients has been very positive and many people have contacted us and asked to be added to the list.”

About one in 12 people fail to attend their appointments and in 2010-11 the hospital experienced 23,411 missed appointments, costing about £3m.