Every time a patient misses an appointment and forgets to tell their GP or hospital, it costs £108 of a UK tax payer’s money. Missed appointments are costing us £162 million per year, say NHS England. How many appointments are being missed a year? We’ll let you do the math. In addition to the monetary loss, it delays the treatment of other patients.clinical trials

How is the money lost?

Though we cannot give you a concrete figure, our guestimate indicates the £108, which is an average, constitutes of:

–          A GP’s time, where he/she could have spent with a patient who actually turned up.

–          Admin resources of booking that patient in.

–          Preparation of other resources dependent on the patient i.e. blood tests, jabs and so forth.

Why are patients missing appointments?

Results of a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine states patients have not attended their appointments for the following reasons:

–          They simply forgot

–          Clerical errors

–          Patients felt better by the time of their appointment

–          Lack of interest i.e. apathy

The result of the missed appointments delays one’s own treatment as well as others and can lead to serious health consequences.

What are the options?

Fine

An option that looks easy on the surface is to fine patients who miss their appointment and don’t give prior warning. However, what will constitute a fineable offence? If a patient forgets to attend because on the day of their appointment an unavoidable circumstance occurs and such is the situation they forget to ring to cancel, are they let off? Furthermore, what constitutes an unavoidable circumstance? Additionally, surgeries and hospitals alike will have to consider putting in place an appeal process and a method to chase up those who have not paid- adding to resources.

Blacklist patients

Keeping an electronic record comprising of those patients who miss appointments will allow organisations to identify which of those are repeat offenders and, as a result, address this concern to and warn them that continued absence will result in repercussions. A dashboard would be the perfect solution for this.

Text message reminders

A text message to remind patients of their appointment is perhaps the most sailable solution and has already been established at various institutions. A text message service is most fair on GP’s and patients. It will allow the forgetful, healed-again or patients effected by extenuated circumstances to cancel or re-arrange their appointments thanks to a reminder. GP’s likewise are able to re-arrange and organise their resources as necessary. Some parcel deliveries company do this, where they’ll text the customer the day before the delivery is due to confirm the date or to ask them to text back a number that will correspond to alternatives dates written in the text message.

Dorset County hospital has found success in using a text reminder service. Previously, around 19,000 patients failed to attend an appointment, which resulted in the loss of almost £3 million. The hospital found instant success, as many patients would call back after receiving the text message to say that they’d forgotten about the appointment and thus would re-arrange. Patients have the option to opt out of the service.

Dashboard

An appointments and cancellations dashboard would allow an organisation to identify those patients who continually miss their appointments and would also go as far as learning about the sorts of reasons patients give as to why they missed the appointment. If the dashboard shows people are simply forgetting then it could warrant text message reminders, however, if a group of patients are simply lazy then the consequences can be put into place just for that group. Such a method would mean all patients are dealt with in the appropriate way. An interactive dashboard would definitely be best fit for this as it allows advanced visualisation techniques and utilises a graphical interface.

If you’d like to implement a text message reminder solution at your site or would like to learn more about appointment and cancellations dashboard, book your free educational knowledge share workshop. The workshop will serve to guide and assist you in how DCC are able to implement a text reminder service infrastructure, using the right resources,  at a cost effective price. (Further information: what is a workshop?).