Heatherwood and Wexam Park Hospitals NHS Trust has implemented an SMS booking system that allows patients to respond to appointment reminders via text.

The trust received ITK funding earlier this year to implement a booking system from start-up company DrDoctor which links to the trust’s iSoft iPM patient administration system.

Nigel Uwins, the trust’s assistant director of IT applications, told EHI the trust is running several initiatives to reduce outpatient department ‘did not attend’ rates, increase capacity and fill late cancellations.

“We’ve been using simple one-way SMS text reminder messages for over five years and have been looking at methods to improve patient communication,” he said.

“The current functionality of the DrDoctor system allows patients to respond to reminders via a text message to say if they will not be attending their appointment or to request a rebooking.”

The system is in use in the rehabilitation department where Uwins said the trust had seen a 29% improvement in DNAs and it will be rolled out further across the trust.

The system also lets patients know if an appointment becomes available sooner than their original appointment and lets them select a date to suit them, something Uwins is keen to take advantage of.

“The next steps are to automatically provide, by text, up to three alternative appointments for patients who have requested a rebooking and this functionality is in test,” he said.

“Once this is complete we will create an inbound message to our PAS to provide a fully automated appointment booking process with planned deployment next year. We’re also looking at using the two-way communication which will allow patients to confirm attendance.”

The system is also used for collecting friends and family test responses in the trust’s A&E department.

When a patient gets discharged, it flags up as an event and automatically sends a message to the mobile phone number registered with the patient.

The trust can view an online dashboard of its FFT response rates and the plan is to create a full website with the same functionalities.

“The trust is also working in partnership with the DrDoctor team to provide an online patient rebooking facility, again, linking through to PAS, as an alternative to the SMS rebooking, for patients who would prefer to manage their appointments this way,” added Uwins.