Enpocket, a provider of mobile media and technology services, has announced that bio-yoghurt drink brand Yakult has become the first sponsor to sign up for a new sponsored NHS appointment reminder service using text messages.

The development follows initial trials of a text message appointment reminder service at Homerton Hospital that began in 2002 (Homerton Launches Text Reminder Service  – 3 October, 2002).

Enpocket has been appointed by Healthcare Communications Ltd to plan and deliver a sponsored NHS appointment reminder service using text messaging. The service will initially be delivered to four NHS Trusts. If successful, it will then be offered to trusts across the NHS.

“The Homerton trial found that sending people text reminders to their mobiles was something people were extremely appreciative of,” Jeremy Wright, co-founder of Enpocket, told E-Health Insider. He added that bringing in sponsors “could potentially make the whole service self-funding”.

It has been estimated that missed appointments cost the NHS over £400m per year. The trial at Homerton Hospital found that text message reminders sent to outpatients the day before an appointment can significantly reduce non-attendance and improve communications with patients.

“The main advantage of text messages is that they can be reliably sent out at the right time and are more impactful than a letter,” explained Mr Wright.

Text messages are sent the day before an appointment to remind patients to attend. The sponsored service will make use of the spare space – up to 80 characters – for the sponsor’s message.

Enpocket will begin a pre-launch trial in July to research the effectiveness of the programme from the savings it can deliver, and evaluate its acceptance among patients together with the value it can bring to brands sponsoring the service.

Mr Wright stressed that it will be down to individual trusts to decide what sort of sponsors they would be happy with. He said that future potential sponsors could include “vitamin brands, pharmacies, or online services – it doesn’t have to be health related.”

Yakult, ‘the milk drink with friendly bacteria’, is the first brand to announce it is signing up to the trial, which will take up to six sponsors. Companies joining the trial will then be given right of first refusal on sponsoring the service, which is planned for full launch in the autumn.

According to Enpocket, which provides mobile marketing services to leading names including Levi’s, the BBC and EMAP, some 30 NHS Trusts – representing some 20% of the NHS and 9m appointments a year – are looking at taking the service in its first year.

Mr Wright, concluded: “This is a unique opportunity for brands to reach customers in a powerful healthcare context and to be seen to help deliver a valued public service.”

Linked story: Homerton Launches Text Reminder Service