SMS appointment reminders can calm the chaos

Topic: Esendex, Guides

SMS appointment remindersToday I read an article in The Age titled Hospital in chaos over new booking system, which, as you can probably guess, is about a hospital that has been having problems with their booking system. The article jumped out at me because the way people use booking systems is of great interest to us at Esendex. We believe nothing can beat SMS when it comes to notifying customers, or patients in this case, and avoiding missed appointments. It was also the subject of the last blog post.

The Age article states that the new system has been in place since May 2013, and that patients were notified by letters that their appointments would need to be rearranged. Firstly, letters are notorious for being ignored, not delivered or forgotten about. So it’s no surprise that patients were coming in for their old appointment times, coming in on the wrong days, or not showing up at all. This caused a lot chaos and overloaded the staff with extra work they simply didn’t need nor want.

One staff member said “Numerous patients have suffered, there is no question of that, we just hope no one has died” and another saying, albeit darkly: “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had died”.

Further to this, the story claims that leaked documents revealed the following:

  • The system failed to account for some specialists’ annual leave and public holidays, causing patients to show up to unstaffed clinics.

  • Confused patients waited longer than 40 minutes on the phone to get through to overwhelmed hospital staff before being hung up on.

  • The health service has received so many complaints, it stopped sending them to the patient complaints department.

  • People who have travelled to the hospitals on wrong dates are being compensated for their costs.

All of the above could have been avoided by simply sending an SMS message to the patient. 98% of people read their text messages and they also have a much higher recall rate. And the details are stored in a piece of technology that most of us carry with us everywhere. Not only that, but text messages are much more cost-effective, beating phone calls and letters hands down.

The article finished with “Ms Sheehy said while the system was superior to the previous one and had reduced the rate at which patients fail to attend appointments by 27 per cent this year, ‘a comprehensive external review of the system and its implementation, that has involved staff and patients, is nearing completion. This will assist in determining if further enhancements are required.’”

Let’s hope SMS is considered in this review, as we know first hand, and through numerous studies and articles, that SMS helps to reduce missed appointments.


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Liz Wilson