How can we alert patients of appointment delays?

Should text notifications be used to give patients advance notice of delays in appointments?

This week on Click on Wales we’re featuring a series of practitioner responses to ideas to improve cancer care in Wales, crowdsourced between June and July 2015 through the IWA’s Let’s talk cancer project. Over 6 weeks patients and their carers posted their idea for how to make things better for those affected by cancer in Wales. In all we had around 100 ideas submitted. We’ve taken these ideas to a panel of practitioners who have given their responses to the 12 ideas we shortlisted using voting on the website. Here’s what they’ve said. We’ll be using the responses to help inform our final report which we’ll publish in September ahead of a conference on the 24th September at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff.

Text / Phone patients to alert them in advance of long delays to appointment times, suggested by David John Sutherland

If there are delays with appointment times then why not text or phone the carer/patient in advance advising them that there is a one or two hour delay and they can make a choice as to how to manage their time.

Practitioner responses:

Gareth Thomas, Lecturer / Diagnostic Radiography, Vice-President –  Society & College of Radiographers:

I think this has potential. Though it would be interesting to see if this has proven to be successful in other sites or in areas such as General Practice / Dentistry

Stephen Thomas, Patient Representative:

This is a recurring theme which I think is a symptom and not the problem, as patients we feel we are not treated in the right way, by the “system”. We wait for too long for our appointments, when we do arrive for said appointment we find ourselves waiting past the time we are asked to attend in order to satisfy the requirements of the Dept, the Consultant and the NHS. We feel our time is given no value.

Phil White, GP:

We have been using text reminders and changes to appointments in primary care as an integrated part of our IT systems. Biggest problem we have encountered is the number of people who change their mobile phone numbers on a regular basis!

Annmarie Nelson, Scientific Director Marie Curie Palliative Care Research:

The technology is available, many NHS trusts are using at present to remind patients about appointments. An example of local use at Cwm Taf: A thorough search is needed to see if there is an existing scheme for alerting patients to appointment delays. The RCN has published guidance on text messaging governance:

What are your views on this idea? How could different settings in the NHS better manage the need to better inform patients of appointment delays? We want to hear what you think in the comment section below.

3 thoughts on “How can we alert patients of appointment delays?

  1. Some of us don’t have mobiles!
    Regular updates in the waiting room (with apologies) would help, plus knowing where you are in the queue – the worst bit is just sitting there not knowing how long it will be.
    Tip for avoiding DNAs : My dentist always sends me a reminder of my appointment the day before

  2. Text notification is a no brainer. It is low cost (hair dressers and small couriers use it), Sure some people don’t have mobiles but the majority do. Automated messages can be sent to landlines at low cost. Yes people change their mobile numbers but not frequently and it takes thirty seconds to verify their number when they make the appointment. Many GP’s now have touchscreen at reception which patients use when they attend a surgery for an appointment – routinely verify moble number at that stage.

    The sensible thing is to ask patients to do a text reply to confirm they have received their text reminder. Those that don’t have a mobile number or do not text an acknowledgement can be chased up by a phone call made by administrative staff. To incentivise patients to use the system those who do not acknowledge their reminder default to being put to the end of the list for patients in that clinic for the respective session so will be waiting around longer..

  3. Most appointments I have been to have varied to some respect. We are all there for a similar reason and sometimes it takes longer to address one patient than another. At scans there is always somebody more important that needs attention. Live with it. I have waited and made people wait.

    I have sat in waiting areas where moaning has been endemic, look in the mirror and make that change. Our consultants don’t say it’s 17-00 h I am going home now, come back another day.

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