Patients of the Bush Doctors and Richford Gate Medical Practice in Hammersmith and Fulham Primary Care Trust will soon receive automated voice messages requesting information to update their medical record.

The free service will send an automated voice message to a patient’s mobile asking them to confirm whether they smoke or not.

The automated messaging service will clearly state that the call comes from the patient’s GP surgery and will specify who the call is for, in case the phone is used by a number of people. The patient will then be asked during the call to respond to the question via keystroke on their telephone keypad.

The trial in Hammersmith and Fulham, enabled by iPLATO, aims to improve the accuracy of data held by GPs. The hope is that patients will like the new system and that it will save doctors time and money. If the trial is a success the PCT plans to roll it out to 25 other practices using the iPLATO system.

Dr Susan McGoldrick, a GP at the Bush Doctors, said: “This is a natural extension of the texting service we already offer to people who have their mobile telephone number recorded on the system here at the surgery. 

“We are seeking to streamline tedious but necessary tasks, such as continuously updating patient records, to free up staff to work with our patients. We know that this will be more efficient than most other data collection methods, so what we are really looking at is establishing patient acceptance and satisfaction.”

Tom Stevenson, spokesperson for the PCT, said: “Doctors need to collect information on all their patients’ smoking status every 15 months; but there are plenty of people who won’t see their GP that often. This new system makes it quick and convenient and will hopefully increase the number of people we can offer stop smoking support to.”

This trial is an extension to a series of text messaging services conducted by the surgeries, Hammersmith and Fulham PCT and iPLATO over the past year.