Robert Flynn, Consultant Urologist at the Adelaide Meath Hospital in Tallaght, Dublin has written an excellent letter to the Editor in this months Irish Medical Journal that I think deserves a lot more awareness: “The Use of Text Messaging to Reduce Non-Attendance at Outpatients Clinic – a Departmental Experience” P Ellanti, RP Manecksha, R Flynn
Non-attendance at outpatient clinics is a common occurrence and impacts significantly on the efficiency of clinical departments. High rates of non-attendance result in under utilisation of medical, nursing and administrative resources. It also has a negative impact on already overstretched clinic waiting lists. More than half of patients who miss their appointment cite forgetting their appointment or confusion about dates or times as the reason for non-attendance. Several methods have been reported to reduce non-attendance rates, including reminder letters, personalised or automated phone calls, all with varying degrees of success. In an effort to reduce the outpatient clinics non-attendance rate, the Urology department in conjunction with the Information and Communication Technology department commenced the use of a text message reminder, sent to patients three days prior to each patient’s appointment. We audited non-attendance rates at Urology clinics before and after introduction of this service.
Between 2007-2009 there were 25,820 appointments made and there was a DNA of 17.6%. The Hospital then introduced SMS appointment reminders over the next 2 years at a total cost of €1,807 (for 25,820 SMS). Between 2009-2011 there were 27,604 appointments made and there was a DNA of only 12.4%, an overall reduction of 29.5% in no-shows. Somewhat unsurprisingly the initiative was very positive with patients aged 16-30 years with the reduction in DNA’s by patients from this age group falling by 63%.
In absolute figures a service that cost just €900 per year resulted in 500 patients per year attending appointments that they otherwise would have missed.