Health text messaging specialists iPlato have agreed a deal to provide their patient care messaging service to 26 doctors’ surgeries in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham covering over 165,000 patients.

The deal is iPlato’s largest deployment to date and will allow patients to interact with their surgery via mobile text messaging on a range of health related subjects such as appointments, periodic health reviews, smoking status, immunisation and invitation to specialist clinics.

iPlato’s managing director, Tobias Alpsten, told EHI Primary Care: “This is the largest deal we have had, but just goes to show how using mobile services integrated with clinical data can help reach a widespread audience. Hammersmith and Fulham’s agenda is not just focusing on ensuring access to healthcare and reducing Did Not Attends, but is also looking at utilising the technology for campaigns, based on the intelligence on patient records.”

iPlato wrote to all the GP practices in the area and invited them to take up the technology and within two month 90% of surgeries in the area had agreed to deploy the system.

Funded centrally by Hammersmith and Fulham PCT, the iPlato service will be used to specifically target important public health concerns such as smoking, flu/childhood immunisation and obesity.

A crucial aspect of delivering these goals is iPlato’s ability to integrate to GP administration systems enabling surgeries to base their mobile patient services on live data residing in their patients’ electronic records. To achieve optimal uptake the service is free to patients and to participating GP surgeries.

Alpsten said: “It’s been fantastic that so many practices were willing to take up this solution. Two thirds have EMIS systems and the other third have INPS systems and we anticipate that they will be up and running within the next two to three weeks. We have included template messages, which the surgeries can use, but are under no obligation to do so.

“For Hammersmith and Fulham, staff will be creating a database of patient mobile phone numbers and they will send targeted texts out to people who meet specific criteria for a particular campaign. Previous use of the technology for this shows that using it for campaigns like this can help improve awareness.”

iPlato say that the deployment will help to underpin improved efficiency, improved marketing of NHS services and enable large scale telehealth services, to 90% of residents.

One of the doctors who will be using the service is Dr Aras, a Fulham based GP, who said: “In our area the majority of people have mobile phones, and unlike an answer machine at home or work, a text message to a personal mobile will get the correct person – and with privacy. Even if people can’t attend an appointment the new system gives them a quick and easy way to cancel by return text, which lets us offer the slot to someone else.”