Mobile messaging could save the NHS millions

New white paper suggests that mobile messaging could save NHS millions by helping to lower the number of missed appointments

With winter illnesses peaking and more patients than ever missing GP appointments, digital experts have highlighted how SMS communication strategies could save both taxpayer money and doctors’ valuable time.

Missed appointments cost the NHS over £160m a year and a recent study, conducted by teams across Universities in Lancaster, Glasgow and Aberdeen looking at more than 500,000 people, found that one in five patients regularly miss appointments. Further investigation found that bookings made two to three days in advance are most likely to be missed with those aged 16-30 and over 90 the worst offenders.

A White Paper report from Textlocal, a SMS messaging service provider, reveals that Britain has nearly 80 million active mobile phones in circulation for the first time and that a simple SMS reminder could be sent to patients in advance of the appointment, allowing recipients to quickly and easily cancel or change appointments.

The The State of SMS research shows that 90% of text messages are opened within three minutes of receiving it and 98% of text communications are read by the end of the day, providing an effective and affordable way to prompt patients to turn up, cancel or change their appointments.

Jason Palgrave-Jones, managing director of Textlocal, says: “Embracing the influence and ease of SMS could reduce wasted appointments and literally save the NHS millions. As well as sending automated reminders and the opportunity to reschedule, the NHS could go one step further and use text messages proactively, such as reminders for flu jabs – as we all know, prevention is better than a cure.”

The growth in smartphone usage and technological advancements have radically transformed the way British people behave and how businesses engage with them. Ofcom estimates that a staggering 93% of the UK’s population now own a mobile phone, with the majority keeping them to hand for more than 16 hours a day.

The State of SMS research also found that consumers view SMS as an information and service channel, meaning read rates for non-marketing, informational messages will be high; and emphasise the ease of data collation, given many GP surgeries will already have patients’ mobile numbers on file.

Textlocal was founded in 2005 and employs 32 people in Chester and a further 20 in Malvern and serves a wide variety of clients from all different sectors, from SMEs through to multi-nationals and charities. The innovative, award-winning online platform has helped transform the way businesses, organisations and groups communicate using mobile. Today, the online platform is sending more than 40 million text messages every month.

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