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Hospital text-message reminders cut missed appointments by a third
PATIENTS not turning up for their hospital appointments and forcing waiting lists up have plummeted by a third in La Rioja after one trust started sending automatic text-message reminders.
Every time someone misses their appointment without calling to cancel in advance, this is a slot that another patient could have had – but most of the time, they do so because it was booked so far in advance that they simply forgot.
So the Calahorra Hospital Foundation has been sending SMS messages to all patients since the beginning of the year to remind them between two and four days before of their appointment time and specialist area.
The Foundation covers doctors' surgeries as well as hospitals in several parts of La Rioja, and reports that at the San Pedro hospital nearly one in 10 patients failed to turn up for their consultations last year, rising to 14.7% in the catchment area as a whole.
But the time and cost of sending text messages to everyone is far less than those involved in missed appointments, and is paying off: through having sent 64,213 SMS reminders, patients' absences without notice have fallen to 10.5% in less than eight months.
And with an average of 20,000 to 22,000 missed appointments per month at various hospitals, the impact on waiting lists and health service costs is huge.
If every hospital and GP clinic in Spain used the same system, it is estimated that the national health system could save millions of euros and waiting lists for everything from family doctor visits through to operations could be cut by weeks, if not months.
Photograph by La Rioja regional health authority
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