Text reminders urged for Cork hospital patients so 'millions of euros' are not wasted on appointment no-shows

Text reminders urged for Cork hospital patients so 'millions of euros' are not wasted on appointment no-shows
Pic: Larry Cummins

CALLS have been made for Cork University Hospital to ensure it reminds patients about their appointments via text message in the days or week before they are scheduled to attend.

The calls come after The Echo revealed that almost 50,000 hospital appointments in Cork were missed by patients last year.

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that 48,052 patients missed appointments across five Cork hospitals in 2019, including more than 30,000 at CUH.

The number of missed appointments led to calls from hospital doctors, GPs, and patients for greater communication between hospitals and patients.

Chris Luke, consultant in emergency medicine and senior adjunct lecturer in public health at University College Cork, said missed appointments highlight “an enormous waste of time and resources in the health service across Cork”.

He explained that consistent communication is needed between hospitals and patients to remind them of appointments.

“People need to be contacted on two or three occasions before the appointment, by letter, text message, phone call, or voicemail,” said Dr Luke.

Dr Chris Luke.
Dr Chris Luke.

However, one CUH patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Echo that she signed up to receive text message reminders about appointments from CUH almost two years ago but is yet to receive any such reminder.

“I was asked to sign a consent form to receive reminders via text and I signed it on the day,” she said.

“I have enquired several times at in-person appointments what the status of text reminders was and been told by the admin person on duty that there has been no movement.

“When I attend out-patients appointments, I return to the desk to request my next appointments.

“They either issue me with a paper A4 appointment then or if it’s busy take the details and send one out via post.

“A week or so in advance I receive another letter with a reminder letter about the appointment but I have never received a text reminder.”

Dr Luke said effective communication between hospitals and patients will prevent large numbers of missed appointments in future and ensure people get the care they need when scheduled.

“I think everyone should get a letter reminder, followed by text messages the week of their appointment and, ideally, they should be able to confirm whether they’ll be attending or not through replying to that message, a voicemail or a return letter,” he said.

“Although return letters will cost the hospital in terms of stamps, the cost of DNAs runs into the millions of euros rather than a few cents.”

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