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The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is set to undertake a pioneering trial using mobile phone text messages to remind patients of their hospital dates and to cut down on costly missed appointments.
The hospital’s Information Technology team is working with the Government’s Office of the e-Envoy to introduce the SMS text messaging service on a three-month trial basis in the hospital’s Jenny Lind Children’s Department.
Last year at NNUH, a total of 30,000 patients failed to give notice that they would not be showing up for outpatient appointments and 600 patients did not turn up for in-patient treatment. Known as Did Not Attends (DNAs) the appointments which are missed without any notice cost the hospital trust around £1.5 million a year and mean other patients on waiting lists miss out when they could otherwise be seen.
The average DNA rate at the hospital trust is 6 per cent but paediatrics (children) is higher at around 8 per cent of patients. The national average for hospital DNAs is around 10 per cent. The Norwich text message pilot will involve texting patients or carers to remind them of their appointment and prompting them to rearrange if it is not going to be convenient. The hospital will not pass mobile numbers on to anyone else and those who do not want to take part will not be involved.
The SMS text messaging system is in the final testing stages and the hospital expects to start running the pilot by the end of this month.
Hospital head of information technology, Bill Fisher, said: DNAs are an unwelcome problem throughout the health service and we are very pleased to be piloting a project that harnesses technology in a convenient and user-friendly way that helps both our patients and us.