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New hospital text messaging service reduces missed appointments

Text message reminder service

23 August 2017

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"64,857 patients failed to attend their first or follow up outpatient appointments at one of our hospital sites - at an approximate cost of £136 per appointment"

A NEW TEXT messaging service has been launched by York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to help remind outpatients about their appointments.

The new service will allow people with an outpatient appointment to receive a text message reminder, with details of where to contact if they wish to rearrange or cancel their appointment. It is aimed at easing hospital outpatient waiting times by reducing the number of patients missing appointments.

Steph Holloway, Patient Access Improvement Manager at the Trust, explained:  “Over a 12 month period up to July this year, 64,857 patients failed to attend their first or follow up outpatient appointments at one of our hospital sites - at an approximate cost of £136 per appointment.

“Patients do not attend their appointments because they have either unintentionally forgotten the date, or failed to inform the Trust that they no longer wish to be seen.  This can result in an unnecessary delay to their care pathway or an unfilled clinic appointment which could have been offered to another patient.

“In just a few weeks the new service is already proving hugely successful and we are sending on average 1,400 text reminders a day to patients.”

By signing up to the text reminder service, patients will receive a text message five days before their appointment giving them the opportunity to confirm, cancel or reschedule via the Trust Contact Centre or direct with the different departments.  A second reminder is sent 24 hours before to confirm the appointment time and date.

In addition to the text reminder service, a new online form for patients has been launched which allows people to request to reschedule or cancel their outpatient appointment.  To date, over 1,000 patients have used the online form which has meant the Trust has been able to efficiently fill empty outpatient appointment slots.  The form is available on the Trust’s website www.yorkhospitals.nhs.uk/appointment/

The form also allows patients to submit their mobile telephone numbers and consent to receive text message reminders of their upcoming outpatient appointments.

Steph added:  “Our aim is to help reduce the number of patients who fail to attend their appointments and, in turn, manage outpatient clinics more efficiently.”

To register for the text messaging service patients simply need to give their mobile phone number to any outpatients’ reception and confirm they agree to receiving text reminders.

The Trust is looking to extend the service further by working with local clinical commission groups and GPs in order to capture patient mobile telephone numbers and consent to opt in to receive text message appointment reminders prior to coming to hospital.   All patients are encouraged to provide this information to their GPs, which can then be included in referral letters to the hospital.

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