SMS based appointment reminders

Missed NHS appointments cost the Government and ultimately the taxpayer in excess of £6million per annum, according to industry statistics. Patients believe the blame lies with the NHS – letters not being sent out in time, not being able to cancel or change the appointment because phone lines are busy or never answered, or stuck in an automated loop. The NHS on the other hand believes the blame lies with the general public because they never bother to cancel or reschedule their appointments.

Significant cost savings could be made and time wasting could be avoided if doctors’ surgeries, outpatient departments, dentists and specialist clinics made more use of SMS, as recent trials have demonstrated.

Barts and the London NHS Trust have recently deployed an automated online SMS service in their outpatients department, to remind patients about their forthcoming appointments because reports showed that over 94, 000 appointments were missed in 2009. The first reminder message is sent two weeks in advance and the second reminder is sent three days before the scheduled appointment.

If the appointment is no longer needed or convenient, patients can cancel or reschedule simply by sending a reply to the text.

Aberdeen City Council has also recently adopted a text messaging alert service to remind its social housing tenants about maintenance or repairs due to be carried out on their properties. The Council sends its tenants an SMS the day before so they do not forget and if there is a problem they are requested to get in touch by replying to the message.

Considering that more than 98% of 20 – 29 year olds and 89% of all men in the UK own at least one mobile phone, you would think that more public sector organisations would be making use of automated SMS services.

Health visitors could remind mums about their childrens’ vaccinations, community nurses could remind the over 60s about their flu jabs, housing officers could remind tenants that their rent is due, maintenance staff could remind tenants that their meters need to be read – the possibilities are endless.

The cost of sending an SMS message is significantly cheaper than the cost of a first class stamp or a phone call made during the day, particularly to a mobile number.
Text messages are delivered almost immediately and, unlike other forms of communications, the majority of people do respond to their texts straight away. Not only that, sending a reply essentially costs nothing because most phone contracts include a certain number of free texts as standard.

Automated SMS reminders can also benefit other industries – informing drivers their car is due for a service or MOT, for example. It’s good customer service as far as the owner is concerned and it’s  cost effective for the garage because  they can keep their contact list up to date with minimum effort or resource.

Our online SMS facilities are really easy to set up and, by deploying one of our services, you would benefit from significant cost savings almost immediately. There is no software to download because you manage your account online and no training is required.

You can upload your appointment spreadsheet onto our servers quickly and easily and schedule single or multiple reminder messages to be sent on specific days and times.

Unlike other providers we also offer a “personalised replies” facility as part of our standard package. This service ensures all your replies are delivered directly to the original sender, allowing them to immediately begin private conversations and start building relationships.

Many organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors are saving themselves money by deploying out online texting services.

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