The deployment of a technology that has helped St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin cope with the amount of missed appointments through reminding patients by SMS could potentially eradicate serious costs mounting in Irish hospitals.
In June 2009, the Irish Medical Times reported on a survey the Health Services Executive carried out in 30 hospitals over a three-month period. The HSE surveyed missed appointments, which are internally classified as “Did Not Attend” or DNA rates by the HSE.
The survey found that more than 100,000 appointments were missed, and with an estimated cost of €80 per DNA, that equates to €8 million. The HSE expects the cost of DNAs for 2009 to be in the region of €33 million. This is a worldwide problem and the NHS in the UK estimates that DNAs will cost about stg£750 million per annum.
St Vincent’s sees around 143,000 outpatients annually with an average DNA rate of 23 per cent, representing almost 30,000 missed appointments per year.
In December 2008, St Vincent’s decided to tackle this problem and tendered for a new text-messaging solution to send appointment reminders to patients. Grapevine was awarded the contract in early 2009 and a pilot project commenced soon after.
The collaboration has been awarded a commendation in the category “Best Use of IT” at year’s Healthcare Awards, sponsored by the Irish Medical Times.
The three-month pilot project was carried out with two of the busiest clinics in St Vincent’s Hospital: ENT and Nutrition & Dietetics. Patients attending the ENT clinic were automatically sent an appointment reminder via an interface with the hospital’s Patient Administration System.
The Nutrition & Dietetics clinic used the Defero web client to manually send appointment reminders as required. The pilot was a major success with DNA rates reduced by 44pc over the trial period. St. Vincent’s have a target DNA rate of 5pc. Since the successful completion of the pilot, new clinics such as Neurology & Urology have also been included.
As well as contacting patients, other hospital services, such as the Nurse Bank, were able to use the Defero Contacts Module to communicate with hospital staff. It is envisaged that Defero will be used for other communication purposes throughout the hospital including the hospital Major Emergency Plan.
By John Kennedy
Photo: Patients being reminded of their appointments via text messages could help eradicate costs mounting in Irish hospitals.