I just called with a reminder

There are good calls and bad calls; calls you treasure, calls you feel are unwanted intrusions into your day and calls you will remember for the rest of your life.  But from time to time a call arrives which is so useful that you are simply pleased to receive it.

We refer here to appointment reminders, those simple texts or automated calls which remind you that your doctor/dentist/hair or other appointment is due.  They don’t take much but can play a huge part in ensuring that you do arrive at your appointment on time, thereby reducing the vast numbers of no-shows which daily cost health practitioners both time and money.

One recent convert to the benefits of automated reminders is the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.  From the start of August, those with outpatient appointments will receive a communication a week before their appointment date, asking them to confirm, cancel or rearrange.  The Trust hopes that this will make a dent in the 39,871 appointments which were missed in the last year.

In fact the trust has calculated that every no-show costs an average of £108 which means that the Trust spent over £4 million last year in dealing with those who failed to turn up for appointments, money which would have been better spent on providing treatment.  In announcing the new service David Moss, deputy general manager for outpatients, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “By making sure all of our appointments are used, we can see more patients and patients will be seen sooner.”

But it is not just hospitals and NHS trusts which are affected by no-shows.  All health practitioners are similarly affected and for those providing direct-pay services such as physiotherapy, a no-show not only means another patient could have been treated, it also equates to a direct loss of income.

Contacting patients to remind them of their appointments can also take time out from that available for treatments.  One solution is to use a virtual assistant service to both make appointments and to send out reminders.  With diary management online the health practitioner can quickly view their upcoming appointments but still be free to maximise patient time.  Add in a patient notes service and even more time can be found for the practitioner to do what they do best, treating patients.

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