Mobile messaging firm iPlato  has announced that practices from two more primary care trusts in England have started using its Patient Care Messaging system.

Integrated into the underlying practice patient administration and clinical system, iPLATO’s Patient Care Messaging service enables easy text messaging with patients around appointments and specialised clinics, helping tackle did not attend (DNA) rates and calling patients in for screening and tests, or notifying them that test results are ready.

Highland Surgery in Southend-on-Sea PCT, has begun using the iPlato messaging system in conjunction with the EMIS LV v2 system the practice runs on.

Dr Paul Husselbee, partner at Highlands Surgery told EHI Primary Care that the practice had just started running with the iPlato system, and was initially using text messaging to target DNA’s. "It’s not a large problem for us but we need to tighten up on DNAs as under Practice Based Commissioning we will be charged for DNAs for hospital appointments."

He said that the text messaging system will also be invaluable under the Quality and Outcomes (QoF) which requires patients to be regularly called in for screening, tests or check ups. "With QoF one of the things you need to do is call people in all of the time. If you can use text messaging that’s a big bonus. At the moment we have to call people in using letters or by phone, which is costly and time consuming."

He added that just texting patients to tell them that their test results are ready would be a huge help. "At the moments our lines are jammed in the afternoon with people calling for their test results."

Dr Husselbee said that before the practice could start using the new system it had had to collect patient’s mobile phone numbers – something not usually recorded on the patient’s registration details. So far the practice has been able to collect mobile phone contacts for about 20% of the practice’s 10,000 patients.

Ealing PCT has launched the same service at a limited number of surgeries, where the iPlato system integrated with practices using either the EMIS or InPractice Systems practice software.

“Many GP practices in the borough have a problem with patients missing their appointments, up to 30% in some areas,” says Keith Martin, NHS Connecting for Health (CfH) programme manager at Ealing PCT. “The PCT feels that Patient Care Messaging, which reminds patients of their appointments, will help to reduce DNAs."

The PCT is conducting a pilot study at a large EMIS LV practice and a smaller Vision practice to evaluate the system. "If the pilot goes well, we will consider rolling the system out to the rest of our 83 practices, as we consider it a cost-effective way of reminding patients about their appointments,” said Martin.

iPLATO’s managing director Tobias Alpsten, said: "Through these new installations combined with another ten contracted sites planned to launch later in the year we feel that the perceived value of text messaging in patient care has increased dramatically since we started in 2003."

He added: "At a more general level I am pleased to see that iPlato is becoming the natural partner for innovative PCTs in their search for new tools to improve patient communications."