McKesson, one of the largest existing suppliers of hospital patient administration systems, has a launched an automated text message reminder service for NHS outpatient which it claims can help save the NHS £300 million a year.

The company’s new text message reminder service, provided in association with TotalCare Meditxt, is designed to help NHS Acute trusts reduce the number of outpatient ‘Did Not Attends’ (DNAs), or missed appointments.

TotalCare Meditxt will send patients automated reminders via text message in advance of their appointment, ensuring the number of DNAs due to human error are minimised.  Patients will have the option to respond to cancel or request a change of appointment, freeing up these otherwise wasted slots for other patients.

McKesson says the new service could help NHS trusts save over £300 million each year and effectively cut waiting times by 11%, a figure based on the fact that of the 44 million NHS outpatient appointments booked each year, 11 per cent are missed.  With each appointment costing an average of £67, the cost of missed appointments amounts to £320 million each year.

In addition, the amount of nursing and clinical time wasted as a result is estimated to be 150 thousand man days each year – a significant amount of time in an already under-resourced NHS.

TotalCare Meditxt will also enable NHS trusts to recall patients, and provide them with ‘no contact’ or  ‘contact us’ requests regarding test results, thus saving costs, increasing efficiency and significantly reducing the administrative and material overheads of a manual reminder and rebooking service.

Jeremy Chandler, Managing Director of McKesson UK, said “By intelligently integrating mobile technology within our existing healthcare IT systems, McKesson aims to help trusts achieve their goal of making the provision of healthcare services more accessible."

He added: “The amount of time, money and healthcare professional resource that is currently going wasted within the NHS because of simple human error, is widely reported. However, until relatively recently, there was very little that trusts could realistically do to prevent this."

TotalCARE Meditxt is a browser-based, automated text tool, which is based upon the txttools application suite and service, and tailored for specific use in the healthcare industry by McKesson. The tool integrates with both McKesson’s TotalCARE patient administration system (PAS), and other PAS systems used throughout the NHS.

With a cost per text message of just 10p, TotalCARE Meditxt can be set up to contact patients according to the preferences of the individual healthcare specialist. Any information exchanged will be updated to the Meditxt applications ‘inbox’, ensuring that requests can be processed and updated into the patient record.

While similar services are currently available for General Practitioners, TotalCare Meditxt is claimed to be the first automated text tool for NHS hospital outpatients.

Chandler said “With 51 million mobile phone users in the UK, 70% of whom actively send and receive text messages, this is an ideal opportunity to increase the efficiency of the NHS and service provision."

McKesson Corporation is the world’s largest healthcare services and technology company. McKesson has been in existence since 1833 and has a turnover in excess of $60 billion making it the 16th largest company in the US.