Patient SMS Appointment Reminders: Save Millions

Benefits of Healthcare SMS Reminders


Written by Mike Gannon, Global Product Owner API Messaging

SMS Appointment Reminders

Reaching every mobile phone, SMS is the preferred choice for healthcare organisations’ staff and patient communications. This is because 97% of text messages are read within 5 seconds, so hospitals and healthcare institutions are integrating messaging as part of their core communications strategy.

But where SMS is really driving value is with automated patient appointment reminders. For example, in the UK, missed appointments are a huge problem for the healthcare sector the produce an enormous cost.

According to Jeremy Hunt, UK Health Secretary, in 2015 missed GP appointments cost the NHS and the UK tax payer £162m and missed hospital appointments cost a staggering £750m a year.

The True Cost of Missed Appointments

Here is just a snapshot of the real implications of missed healthcare appointments. This sample set was taken from 128 GP practices, out of over 8,000 GP practices across the UK.

The average cost of a single missed appointment with a GP ranges from £13 to £20.

  • 10 million GP appointments are lost to missed appointments each year
  • Across 49 GP practices 240 appointments were missed in a single day
  • 2,900 missed appointments across 35 GP Practices in the month of December 2016
  • Unattended appointments across 44 practices resulted in 450 hours of GP time wasted per month.

When you take similar a snapshot for hospitals, where the cost of a missed hospital appointment is around £108, the cost implications become astronomical.

  • 4.3 million patients accounted for 6.8 million missed out patient appointments
  • One in six patients (566,040) failed to attend one appointment, one in 25 (136,710) failed to attend twice and one in 50 (65,590) failed to attend three or more time
  • 13% of patients who did not attend an outpatient appointment (448,710) went on to have an unplanned A&E attendance
  • 6.5% of patients who did not attend an outpatient appointment (223,110) went on to have an emergency admission to hospital.

Patient Appointment Reminders Benefit All Healthcare Organisations

The pain points of missed medical appointments are echoed globally.

However healthcare organisations across the world can use integrated messaging to send patient appointment reminders to reduce the number of skipped appointments in both primary and secondary care.

Integrated messaging is key to enabling the delivery of the millions of appointment reminders that are sent to patients in the UK each day.

This integration can be achieved in a number of ways:

  1. Email to SMS (SMPT) platforms enable healthcare organisations to send an email that is converted to an SMS. Patient reminders systems can integrate this API into their platforms to send reminders direct from any email browser.
  2. HTTPS REST API provides a more programmatic control for sending text messages to process appointments and deliver automated reminders.
  3. Where direct integration is not available, appointment information can be extracted, transformed and loaded into a CSV file. Any healthcare organisation can then add the file to an SFTP server and a templated reminder is triggered from the messaging portal.

Integrated Messaging could deliver a £213m Cost Saving

A study in October 2011 reported that sending appointment reminders can reduce the number of missed appointments by between 29% and 39%.

Considering the 6.8 million hospital appointments missed in the UK each year, this could cost the NHS up to £734m (considering the cost of a missed appointment is £108).

By implementing automatic appointment reminders, this could reduce this cost by 29%, therefore patient reminders could save the NHS a staggering £213m!

Ready to reduce the number of missed appointments at your healthcare organisation and start saving money?