City and Hackney Teaching Primary Care Trust (tPCT) has launched a mobile phone text appointment reminder service for patients attending its screened services.

The technology behind the service is being provided using the Patient Care Messaging application supplied by mobile healthcare applications specialist iPlato. The company already provides a range of text appointment reminder services to nine other primary care trusts in England.

According to iPlato its Patient Care Messaging system will help City and Hackney tPCT deliver care more efficiently and effectively. The messaging application was made freely available to patients using the tPCT’s Locomotor muscular-skeletal service at the beginning of March.

The Locomotor service provides an alternative to potentially lengthy hospital waits. Appointment reminder messages will be sent to patients using the service and a high take-up of the text reminder facility among patients is anticipated. It is hoped the introduction of patient care messaging will help keep did not attend rates to a minimum.

"Mobile patient services is really the way forward" says Sham Rahim, project manager for Booking & Choice at the Teaching PCT. "We believe that text messaging to remind patients about their appointments is a perfect first step towards building a ‘mobile relationship’ with them."

Rahim explained that the tPCT aimed to get as many people as possible onto the system as quickly as possible. "To achieve this we will actively call our patients to gain their consent and distribute patient information leaflets to all GP surgeries in City and Hackney. Patients are encouraged to let both their referring GP and the screened services team know that they wish to receive reminders.”

Tobias Alpsten, managing director of iPlato, explained that the screened services team is similar to secondary care as it is based on referrals from GPs. "This makes effective mobile patients services especially challenging because of the on/off relationship between the patient and the healthcare provider."

Alpsten told E-Health Insider that iPlato was seeing a surge of interest in text messaging mobile health applications from PCTs. In addition to ten sites now live the company is preparing to go live at eight more PCTs. "We’ve doubled our installed base in the last quarter."

Looking ahead he said the next big area after appointment reminders would be "prescriptions, particularly repeats, and telling patients test results are ready". Alpsten added: "The other main area we have been working on are campaign management tools for use in flu vaccinations and similar campaigns."

The final area he pointed to is using mobile phones to improve patient’s management of their long term conditions. "One of the applications we will be offering is ‘living with diabetes’ which is based on a java applications that downloads directly to your smart phone with regular fresh content and messages."