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SMS reminders for psychiatric appointments

Posted on 20/02/2012
SMS reminders

Text message reminders could reduce the number of missed psychiatric appointments by 25-28%, representing a potential national yearly saving of over £150 million, according to research at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London in partnership with the Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust. 

Published in Psychiatric Services, the study is the largest of its kind and examined the outcomes of 24,709 outpatient appointments scheduled in four Community Mental Health Clinics in Greenwich between March 2008 and July 2010. 

SMS reminders sent seven and five days before an appointment during a 3½ month period in 2009, and seven and three days before an appointment in the same period in 2010 reduced missed appointments by 25-28% compared to the equivalent period in 2008, when no reminders were sent.

Missed hospital appointments cost the National Health Service (NHS) more than £600 million a year. Between 2007 and 2008, 6.5 million appointments were missed in the UK, with hospitals losing around £100 per patient in revenue.

Dr Eugenia Kravariti, lead investigator of the study from the Department of Psychosis Studies at the IoP at King’s says: ‘The extent of non-attendance in psychiatry, along with its impact on the patient, is likely to be significantly greater than in other medical specialties. 20-34% of scheduled appointments in mental health services result in non-attendance, which is about 2-3 times the rate in other medical specialties. Missed hospital appointments waste resources, disturb planned work schedules, and increase the risk of adverse patient outcomes, including disengagement from services, medication non-adherence, re-hospitalization and suicide’.

Dr Elias Tsakanikos from the Health Services and Population Research Department at the IoP at King’s and collaborator in the study adds: ‘Our promising findings underline the need for rigorous health economics studies of the costs and savings of SMS reminders, as well as their diverse clinical applications, preferably in the form of randomised controlled trials’. 

The authors, including Dr Chike Ify Okocha, Medical Director at the Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and co-lead of the study, thanked the board of directors of the Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust; Tristan David, B. Eng., and Rob Richardson of Sector IT Solutions for technical assistance; and the staff and patients of the ASC team and the Ferryview Health Centre in Woolwich, England, for their support, participation, and feedback.

For full paper: Sims, H. et al. ‘Text Message Reminders of Appointments: A Pilot Intervention at Four Community Mental Health Clinics in London’ Psychiatric Services (February 2012) doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100211

For more information, contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, email: seil.collins@kcl.ac.uk or tel: 0207 848 5377

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