How healthcare practices can use SMS to cancel non-urgent appointments

Topic: Healthcare

According to the Financial Times, the NHS is about to face its largest challenge in a generation. The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented situation, and has led governments all around the world to ask the public to do their bit to support the healthcare industry.

Arguably the NHS was already stretched and so the government is looking to quickly implement changes to help support our health service during this time. In preparation for the situation ahead, 65,000 former doctors and nurses are being asked to return to the medical front line. Additionally, many manufacturing companies – Nissan and Smiths group included, have been working on plans to quickly produce ventilator machines in a national effort to tackle the crisis.

While helping with these actions may seem beyond our control, there are smaller steps that can be taken to help ease the pressure on our health service, one of which is the NHS cancelling non-urgent appointments. This is being done with the utmost care and consideration for patients, but it works in two key ways. Firstly it frees up time and space for urgent cases to be seen and secondly, it ensures that as few people as possible are visiting highly populated venues such as medical practices.

SMS communications are almost immediate

There may be some cases where appointments need to be cancelled relatively last minute, and this is where SMS can really help. While an email or missed call may go unnoticed for hours, or even days, 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes. Considering individuals pick up their phone, an average of 58 times a day, this is not surprising, but it does mean appointment updates sent via this channel are almost guaranteed to be received immediately.  

SMS is wide-reaching

According to Statista, approximately 95% of all households within the UK own a mobile phone, which is even more impressive when you consider that only 79% have a landline. Furthermore, as 95% of all SMS are read by recipients, healthcare providers can be confident that their message has been received. 

At present, this is most frequently used by healthcare providers to send time-critical information. An example includes identifying whether a patient should attend a pre-booked appointment, by understanding whether they have started to develop a range of symptoms, such as a persistent cough or high temperature. Furthermore, by using two-way SMS, patients are able to quickly and easily reply to their medical practice and alert them if they need to cancel or amend their appointment due to the development of these symptoms. 

Individuals are already familiar with SMS

Last year, it was reported that missed appointments cost the NHS £216 million. However, in practices where SMS has been implemented, sending recipients a simple text message to remind them of their appointment, reduced the number of no-shows by 50%. With this in mind, it makes sense to communicate appointment cancellations via a channel people already respond well too and are familiar with. By adding an option with your SMS message for individuals to cancel or call to reschedule, healthcare practices can ensure they are being as efficient with their time as possible and reducing the risk of other patients becoming infected. 

In addition to sending text messages to notify recipients of appointment cancellations, healthcare practices can send individuals contact details for those wanting further information or even basic advice. For instance, you could remind individuals to make urgent appointments over the phone rather than in-person, to keep personal contact to a minimum.

To find out how your healthcare practice could implement SMS today, please get in touch with one of our friendly advisors on 0345 356 5758 or at [email protected]

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