Patients treated at Guy's Hospital or St Thomas' Hospital can now opt to receive SMS reminders of their appointment in an effort to reduce the number of people who forget to turn up.
Missed appointments – known as 'did not attends' (DNAs) – cost the NHS millions of pounds per year, so the service delivery team and IT department at SE1's two hospitals have developed a text messaging system to help departments contact outpatients with useful information relating to their appointments.
The new system can be tailored to send a wide variety of texts according to the needs of the various departments. Messages range from a simple recap of the time and location of the appointment to more specific reminders such as not to eat or drink, to bring medication, or bring along glasses or hearing aids.
Messages are sent approximately six days prior to scheduled appointments and include useful numbers should patients wish to cancel or need to re-book.
GPs can update patient records with mobile numbers when referring them to the hospital trust, and patients themselves can visit the appointments area of the Guy's and St Thomas' website to update their own details.
Since the pilot launch in October last year the number of text messages sent to outpatients at the two hospitals has risen to approximately 600 a day.
"The service has made a huge difference to us and we've seen the number of DNAs fall by a third since we introduced it," says Antonio Iavarone, deputy service manager for haemostasis and thrombosis.
"It allows us to give patients a better experience and also helps the trust make better use of its resources."
Marie Stevens, who manages the text message service, said: "Patients are responding positively to the service, and we are seeing at least 50 new people sign up per week to receive the service. This is an important issue to tackle within the NHS and we are thrilled it is working so well."