SMS Text Messaging Reduces DNA Rates by 30%

SMS text messaging having an impact on hospital performance data

5th April 2005. Cambridge, UK: Government health departments are still waiting for a return on large investments in IT infrastructure. However, according to a report to be published later this week by Cambridge based analysts Wireless Healthcare, a simple mobile phone based service is already having an impact on hospital performance data. The report, ”Mobile and Wireless Services For Outpatients”, draws attention to reduced ‘Did Not Attend’ (DNA) rates (missed appointments) in outpatient clinics that use SMS based appointment reminder systems.

The report notes that revenues from SMS patient reminder services will grow relatively slowly over the next five years from a low base and are unlikely to exceed £1 million per annum by 2010. Theoretically, if every patient in the UK were sent a text message reminding them of their appointment, mobile communications providers would receive revenues in excess of £20 million per annum. However, Wireless Healthcare feel it is unlikely that health providers will migrate more than a small proportion of patients from paper based systems to the current generation of mobile services.

The report reveals that SMS patient reminder systems have reduced some outpatient clinics’ DNA rates by up to 30%. “The patients most likely to forget, or not bother, to turn up for appointments fall within the 16 to 35 age group,” notes Peter Kruger, Senior Analyst with Wireless Healthcare, who goes on to point out, “by a lucky coincidence people in this age group are heavy users of mobile phones and text messaging. This is one reason why text message based reminder systems have been successful from day one.” However, Wireless Healthcare warns that this early success could result in diminishing returns as reminder services are expanded.

In the report Wireless Healthcare points out that SMS patient reminder services provide mobile communications vendors with an ideal entry point into the healthcare IT market. Wireless Healthcare sees vendors who become established in the market leveraging their position by adding services, such as patient support and medication reminder and compliance monitoring, to their existing messaging platform. The report sees evidence that this is already happening in the field of mental healthcare where outpatient clinics and social services are under political pressure to ensure that patients keep appointments and comply with medication regimes. The report also sees a number of established IT vendors adding patient reminders to the list of outsourced services they offer hospitals.

Another wireless technology that is being used by outpatient clinics is patient paging. Wireless Healthcare’s report concludes that sales of these systems, which currently use proprietary networking technology, could come under pressure as restrictions on the use of mobile phones in hospitals are lifted. Then text-messaging vendors will start providing systems that alert patients who are waiting within the outpatient clinic itself. Wireless Healthcare notes that the ease with which patient paging can be deployed, and its relatively low cost, have been instrumental in the rapid growth in sales of systems to outpatient clinics. While patient paging is currently marketed as a technology that improves the patient’s experience of the outpatient care process, it could, according to the report, when integrated with Patient Administration Systems (PAS), also be used to increase a hospital’s workflow efficiency.

The report “Mobile and Wireless Services For Outpatients” is available from


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