SMS reminders reduce missed hospital appointments

The Haaglanden Hospital in the Netherlands has reduced the number of missed appointments by sending an SMS reminder to patient’s mobile phones. Four days prior to every appointment, patients receive an SMS message that includes the date and time of the appointment. The hospital has also implemented a €45 fee for missed appointments.

Since June 2011 when the program started, they estimate a reduction in the ‘no-show’ rate of approximately 3%. This represents a savings of €850 000, compared to implementation costs of €10 000.

Prior to this program the hospital had a no-show rate of 7 to 8%, representing €8.5 million in lost revenue. The hospital has approximately 800 000 inpatient appointments per year, with an average revenue of €152 per appointment.

In 2008 it was estimated that missed appointments in the Netherlands cost hospitals €300 million per year. Missed appointments also increase waiting times. One reason that hospitals are reluctant to send patients a bill for missed appointments is fear that patients will counter-claim when physicians are late for appointments, according to the Financial Telegraph. Other factors cited include poor administrative and billing practices at hospitals.