Hospital patients have begun to receive automated appointment reminders in a bid to maximise clinicians’ time and reduce the number of missed appointments.

As part of a programme to transform its outpatient services, Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has introduced a new automated system, Envoy Messenger supplied by Healthcare Communications which uses SMS text and interactive voice messaging to alert patients to their upcoming appointments.

Over 700,000 outpatient appointments are made each year, but around 64,000 of these, almost one in every 10, is wasted when patients fail to attend.  The reasons for non-attendance are varied, however each missed appointment understandably has a knock-on effect for the service and other patients, such as increased waiting times, delays in diagnosis and treatment, and loss of medical and nursing staff’s valuable time.

The new patient messaging system works by sending automated SMS text messages to mobile phones and interactive voice messages to landlines.  Seven days before a patient’s appointment is due, a text or voice message is sent out to the patient’s mobile phone or landline along with the details of their appointment including date, time, and location. Patients are then given the option to:

  1. Confirm they will be attending the appointment
  2. Cancel their appointment
  3. Cancel and rebook
  4. Stop receiving appointment reminders.

Booking staff receive a report in real time detailing patients’ responses and any actions that need to be taken. Trust staff will then contact those patients who have indicated that they wish to cancel and/or rebook their appointments, and any cancelled appointments are offered to the next patient on the waiting list.

Jackie Railton, Head of Strategic Planning for Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust says:

“With so many different specialties and clinics within our hospitals, the Trust is introducing the appointment reminder service on a phased basis.  Phase 1 of the roll out, which is underway now, involves all outpatient clinics where bookings are handled through the main Appointment and Referral Centre.  Phase 2, which will follow in the coming weeks, will add in those areas where clinic bookings are managed by the individual departments and services themselves.

“The reminder service is just one element of a wider programme by which the Trust is seeking to improve its outpatient services. Our Outpatient Transformation Programme aims to improve the patient experience by reducing unnecessary waits, ensuring patients are better informed, and ensuring that high quality care is delivered in settings which are accessible, comfortable and respect individuals’ privacy.”