HEALTH chiefs have come up with a new way to help patients remember they have appoinments – text messaging.
Hospital staff are now texting people on their mobile phones to remind them the day before their appointment.
The move comes because of growing concern about missed appointments.
Each missed appointment costs the health service an average of £200. With around 15,000 missed appointments last year this equates to losses for the hospital of up to £3m each year.
Health Minister David Anderson said he was pleased with how the texting experiment was working.
‘This has had the effect of reducing the number of people who failed to turn up for their allotted appointment in the areas where it has been trialled,’ he said.
The idea is to roll out the scheme into other areas in the near future, he said.
‘We do appreciate this sort of approach may not be suitable for everyone,’ he added. ‘But where it has been trialled it certainly seems to be quite successful.’
The trial in the gynaecology department will extend to other hospital departments from this autumn.
‘Missed appointments are obviously not conducive to the good running of the hospital and we are constantly looking for ways to improve,’ said the minister.
Mr Anderson said he believed many factors contributed to missed hospital appointments. Routine matters could receive appointments many months in the future, which held a risk of patients forgetting.
Even if patients had not forgotten, he said sometimes their circumstances might have changed since the appointment was made, leading them to miss it.
‘They might simply have recovered in the meantime, or they could have been seen by someone else, or for some other reason they might no-longer need that appointment.
‘In the future if something like that happens we need to ensure we know about it so an appointment slot is freed up for someone else and does not create a log jam for other people. If someone has not attended, we could have fitted in perhaps two or even three other people that day.’
Noble’s Hospital chief nurse Bev Critchlow said some responsibility lies with patients but the hospital too must take responsibility for giving appointments a long way in the future or not sending out letters in time. She also said she accepted it was sometimes difficult for patients to let them know if they were going to miss an appointment.
She added the self referral system for appointments had improved the situation and they hoped to set up an appointments bureau in the future where patients could arrange appointments at times which suited their schedule, This meant they would take ownership of them and were more likely to keep them, she said.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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