Telephone reminders

We’ve written before about the way in which telephone reminders can help to cut down the number of no-shows but it is always a pleasure to be able to report on a practical example.  Earlier this year the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust introduced a reminder service for those with outpatient appointments.

Since the reminder service started the trust reports that no-shows have reduced by a third and the trust is therefore expanding the service to its physiotherapy departments.  Using a mixture of texts and automated calls the trust decided to adopt the appointment reminder service as a way of cutting down on the 39,871 appointments missed in 2012.

In announcing the extension of the service the trust’s deputy general manager responsible for outpatients told the Wiltshire Times: “The reminders seem to making a real difference. I hope that patients find the service helpful and it makes it easier to cancel or rearrange. If we know a patient won’t be attending, we can offer the appointment to someone else. By making sure all of our appointments are used, we can see more patients and patients will be seen sooner.”

Patients who fail to show up for appointments are not just a problem for NHS trusts.  Health practitioners everywhere from osteopaths to physiotherapists and from beauticians to specialised health clinicians all need to run with as full a schedule as possible if they are to remain competitive.  Not only can missed appointments lead to delays in treatment times for the patients concerned and others, for those who rely on the appointment to generate income, every gap is a loss.  The Wiltshire trust estimated that for them each missed appointment cost some £108 and the opportunity cost charge can easily be higher for those in private practice.

It is hardly surprising therefore that telephone appointment reminders are increasingly becoming a necessary feature of health practice.  This writer has received reminders within the past few months from their optician, dentist and doctor, all of whom have adopted versions of the reminder system.  Set alongside a virtual assistant service which can also take calls and arrange bookings, even the smallest of health practices can move towards a fuller diary with fewer no-shows.  This in turn means that health practitioners can keep their prices competitive whilst maximising both their income and patient treatment times.

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